Major League Soccer announced Wednesday the full match schedule and broadcast details for the historic MLS is Back Tournament in Disney World. Sporting Kansas City will kick off their Group D campaign on July 12 against rivals Minnesota United FC before facing the Colorado Rapids on July 17 and Real Salt Lake on July 22, with all three games shown live nationally on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN app.
Sporting’s group stage schedule comes with a unique quirk, as the club will meet RSL in an 8 a.m. CT kickoff, the earliest start to a game in club history. The fixtures against Minnesota and Colorado are slated for 7 p.m. CT.
Captain Matt Besler reacted to the news today during his customary appearance on Sports Radio 810 WHB with Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty, Steven St. John and Jake Gutierrez.
“I have not played a game that early in a long, long time—since probably before high school,” Besler said. “Everybody has a different preference. Some people are morning people and some people aren’t.
“Some of the other games aren’t kicking off until 10:30 p.m. in Orlando. Personally, I would make the argument that game would be worse than the morning game for me because you’ve got to wait around all day, you’ve got the game to think about and you’re not quite sure what to do during the day. On the flipside, you play the game and you probably don’t get done until 1 a.m. You’ve got to go back to the hotel, eat something, shower and then wind down and try and get to sleep. You’re probably not going to bed until 2:30 or 3 o’clock in the morning.
“The fact that we have two 7 p.m. kickoffs and a morning kickoff is great. I really like our schedule. The fact that the two evening games fall on a Sunday night and a Friday night is awesome for fans. It gives more fans an opportunity to watch. Hopefully on the Wednesday morning when we play Salt Lake, the fans will tune in and we’ve given them an excuse to tune out of work for a little bit.”
Besler also discussed Sporting’s pledge to evoke social change after players banded together last Friday on Juneteenth. Besler said the club’s efforts to eliminate racism have brought teammates closer together than ever before.
“For me, being the captain of our team, this takes high priority,” he said. “This takes precedence over almost everything else right now, just in terms of making our guys feel comfortable and making sure there are no issues within our locker room. We have guys coming from all over the world, and that’s one of the beauties about soccer. You’ve got to come together as a team, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from or your culture or your beliefs or anything like that. Everyone is treated equally and we all have to come together as a team.
“I’ve enjoyed the last couple of weeks seeing how our team has responded to a lot of these issues. We’ve come together as a team. We were close as it is—we’ve always had a really close locker room—but this has brought us even closer.”