Sporting Kansas City II (0-2-0, 0 points) will continue their month-long road swing Saturday with the first of two straight USL Championship fixtures against three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Louisville City FC (1-2-0, 3 points) at the newly opened Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. The Group E encounter is slated for 7 p.m. CT with a live stream on ESPN Plus and additional in-game updates available on Twitter at @SportingKCII.
Led by third-year head coach and former Sporting Kansas City great Paulo Nagamura, Sporting KC II returned to USL Championship action last Saturday with a spirited performance at still-perfect Indy Eleven. A pair of Sporting Kansas City Academy products stood out, as 20-year-old forward Wilson Harris bagged his 11th goal in 13 league appearances dating back to last season while 18-year-old goalkeeper Brooks Thompson set a USL Championship season-high with nine saves between the posts. Indy scored on either side of halftime, however, to claim a 2-1 triumph and deny Sporting II their first points of the abridged 2020 campaign.
Under the guidance of experienced head coach John Hackworth, Louisville has established itself as a perennial USL Championship power, having won consecutive league titles in 2017 and 2018 before falling in the final last year against Real Monarchs SLC. The 2017 USL Cup Final saw Louisville secure a narrow 1-0 win over Sporting KC II, which adds an intriguing historical component to Saturday's contest in the club's freshly minted, soccer-specific stadium.
Louisville opened 2020 with a road win over North Carolina FC but has suffered consecutive home defeats since the USL Championship campaign resumed July 11 following a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pittsburgh handed Louisville a 3-1 defeat on July 12 before Saint Louis FC prevailed 1-0 last Saturday on a goal from former Sporting KC II forward Tyler Blackwood.
Sporting KC II's youthful attack features Harris as well as the likes of Enoch Mushagalusa and Fredinho Mompremier, both of whom started last weekend. Captain Christian Duke has returned to the side in 2020, having led Sporting II to consecutive Western Conference titles in 2016 and 2017, with Academy product Jake Davis and 2019 MLS SuperDraft selection Camden Riley also patrolling the middle of the park. A pair of Colorado Rapids homegrowns, Sam Raben and Dillon Serna, also made their club debuts last week along the backline.
Saturday's game is the first of a two-game set between the sides, as Sporting II and Louisville will once again take the field at Lynn Stadium next Wednesday. Nagamura's men will make a total of four visits to the venue this year, with additional meetings slated for Aug. 12 and Oct. 3.
The revamped 2020 USL Championship season has divided 35 clubs into eight groups, four in each conference. The top two finishers in each group will advance to the 16-team, single-elimination playoffs beginning in October.
USL Championship: Match 3 of 16
Date: Saturday, July 25
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Location: Lynn Family Stadium (Louisville, Kentucky)
Live Stream: ESPN Plus
Sporting Kansas City II: 0-2-0, 0 points (4th place in Group E)
MLS Affiliate: Sporting Kansas City
Louisville City FC: 1-2-0, 3 points (3rd place in Group E)
MLS Affiliate: None