Price Chopper Match Preview: Sporting to host Minnesota in battle for first place on Sunday

Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United FC
2020 MLS Regular Season | Match 11 of 23
Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 | 7:30 p.m. CT
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas

Broadcast Schedule:
English TV | FOX Sports Kansas City
English TV | FOX Sports Midwest
Streaming | FOX Sports GO or ESPN Plus
English Radio | ESPN 94.5 FM

How to Watch | Five Things to Know | By The Numbers
MatchCenter | Match Notes | Media Guide | Media Assets

A marquee battle for first place in the Western Conference will unfold Sunday night at Children's Mercy Park as Sporting Kansas City (5-3-2, 17 points) and Minnesota United FC (5-3-2, 17 points) write the next chapter of their regional rivalry.

The annual Kick Childhood Cancer match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest and FOX Sports GO beginning at 7 p.m. CT. The contest will also air locally on ESPN 94.5 FM with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following. Viewers outside of the FOX Sports Midwest footprint can stream the action on ESPN Plus, while all fans can access the Sporting KC app for in-game updates and exclusive offers.

Following detailed safety protocols developed in conjunction with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, Sunday's match at Children's Mercy Park will be held at a reduced capacity with extensive safety protocols in place. Tickets for the game are available exclusively to Sporting Kansas City Season Ticket Members via lottery and no single-game tickets will be sold by the club on SeatGeek.com or at the stadium box office.

Trailing first-place Seattle Sounders FC by a point in the table, Sporting and Minnesota have the opportunity to reach the Western Conference summit with a win on Sunday. Both teams have experienced similar journeys within the context of an unprecedented 2020 season thus far, beginning 2-0-0 prior to a four-month hiatus, performing well at the MLS is Back Tournament and earning mixed results since MLS resumed to home markets in mid-August. Sporting returned from Walt Disney World and beat the Loons 2-1 on Aug. 21 to improve to 5-1-0, but have taken just two points from their previous four games. The Loons jumped to 3-0-0 with a 2-1 win over Sporting on July 12 in Orlando, then went on a five-game regular season winless skid before rebounding with consecutive home wins last week over Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas.

Minnesota entered MLS as an expansion club in 2017 and has faced Sporting 12 times in all competitions since then. Manager Peter Vermes' side has a 6-4-2 edge in the all-time series, including a perfect 5-0-0 record at Children's Mercy Park. Sporting has dominated the Loons in the friendly confines of their world-class stadium, outscoring Minnesota 14-1 and posting four shutouts.

After missing the playoffs in 2017 and 2018, head coach Adrian Heath led Minnesota to its first postseason appearance last fall. Momentum has continued into 2020, with the Loons proving to be one of the more dynamic MLS outfits during the first half of the campaign. Attacking midfielder Kevin Molino is tied for fifth in MLS with five goals, having scored twice in Wednesday's 3-2 home win over FC Dallas, while Robin Lod, Ethan Finlay and Luis Amarilla have all bagged multiple goals this year to go with Jan Gregus' five assists. The emerging X-factor, however, could be newly acquired Argentine playmaker Emanuel "Bebelo" Reynoso. The 25-year-old joined the Loons on Sept. 1 from South American powerhouse Boca Juniors and has recorded assists in each of his first two MLS starts.

Sunday's fixture will feature two of the league's most potent offenses. Minnesota is tied for second in the league with 2.1 goals per game, while Sporting is fourth at a clip of 2.0 per game. The hosts are also chasing history, as they have scored in each of their first 10 regular season matches for the first time since 2007, two games shy of the club record. Sporting's deep attacking corps features forward Khiry Shelton (four goals), midfielder Gadi Kinda (four goals, two assists), striker Alan Pulido (three goals, four assists), winger Johnny Russell (two goals) and center forward Erik Hurtado (two goals).

In recent weeks, Vermes has navigated a congested schedule by relying on a stable of young Sporting Kansas City Academy products. Eighteen-year-old midfielder Gianluca Busio and 20-year-old defender Jaylin Lindsey have started five straight matches, while 19-year-old Cameron Duke and 22-year-old Felipe Hernandez have seen their minutes grow in midfield.

In conjunction with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Sporting and The Victory Project have joined MLS in launching the Kick Childhood Cancer campaign to help support to one of the most vulnerable populations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. A variety of Kick Childhood Cancer retail items will be available at the stadium on Sunday, including limited-time scarves and beanies. For every beanie sold, a beanie will be donated to Children’s Mercy Hospital. Supporters can also visit victorykc.org/5050 through the end of September to participate in the Kick Childhood Cancer 50/50 raffle, with one winning contestant receiving half of the net proceeds and the other half going to The Victory Project.

The Kick Childhood Cancer initiative will be amplified on the field this weekend with a commemorative gold ribbon on the adidas 2020 MLS Nativo XXV Official Match Ball as well as gold corner flags and goal nets. Players will wear Kick Childhood Cancer gold ribbon jersey patches and captain's armbands, technical staff will don Kick Childhood Cancer pins, and PRO referees will sport gold wristbands.

Sunday marks the continuation of a busy match schedule through the end of the regular season, as clubs will play up to two times per week through Decision Day on Nov. 8 to conclude the abbreviated and condensed 23-game campaign. The Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, featuring an expanded field of 18 teams, are slated to begin on Nov. 20 and culminate on Dec. 12 with MLS Cup.

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