"This Week in Sporting," presented by The Smile Generation, is a weekly series that highlights the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City. To visit the series archive, click here.
1. Back at the Top
Sporting Kansas City (6-3-2, 20 points) returned to the summit of the Western Conference with a well-earned 1-0 win over rivals Minnesota United FC (5-4-2, 17 points) on Sunday night at Children’s Mercy Park. Johnny Russell’s dramatic 80th-minute strike off a brilliant assist from Graham Zusi separated the sides in a game that Sporting dominated from start to finish, as Minnesota failed to put a single shot on target for the first time ever and suffered their sixth loss in as many visits to Kansas City since joining MLS in 2017.
The resolute victory vaults Sporting two points ahead of second-place Seattle Sounders FC in the ultra-competitive West, while Minnesota keeps provisional hold of third. Goalkeeper Tim Melia’s third shutout of the season came at the expense of a suffocated Loons outfit that entered the night ranking second in MLS in goals per game.
2. Saturday Showdown
Manager Peter Vermes' men will return to Children's Mercy Park on Saturday as the next phase of the club's regular season campaign begins against FC Dallas (3-2-4, 13 points) at 2:30 p.m. CT. FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO will provide three hours of live coverage on Saturday starting at 2 p.m. CT, while Univision and TUDN will air a national telecast in Spanish. Listeners can also catch the action locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM, with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately afterward on 810 WHB.
A limited number of tickets for Saturday's contest are available at SeatGeek.com while supplies last. Sporting's next two home games on Sept. 19 and 23 will be held at a reduced capacity of 18% with comprehensive health and safety protocols in place.
3. More Matches on the Docket
Sporting Kansas City announced last Friday an additional three matches to the club’s 2020 MLS regular season schedule through the end of September, including two nationally televised contests at Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting will begin the second phase of the continued regular season campaign with home matches against FC Dallas on Saturday and Orlando City SC on Sept. 23 followed by a trip to the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 27.
From the beginning of October through Decision Day on Nov. 8, Sporting will play an additional nine MLS matches to round out the 23-game regular season. Additional 2020 MLS regular season matches will be announced pending further developments regarding travel protocols.
4. An Expanded Field
As part of Major League Soccer's regular season schedule release through the month of September, the league also confirmed how the 2020 postseason will unfold. Featuring an expanded field of 18 teams, eight from the Western Conference and 10 from the East, the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs will once again consist of single-elimination matches hosted by the higher-seeded team. The competition will follow a straight bracket format through MLS Cup on Dec. 12.
5. Winning the Shield
Twenty years ago last week, Sporting Kansas City secured its first major title in club history by winning the Supporters’ Shield on the final day of the 2000 MLS regular season. On the 20th anniversary of the club’s lone Supporters’ Shield triumph to date, SportingKC.com has presented an oral history of the momentous 2000 regular season finale with input from four individuals who played key roles in bringing the trophy to Kansas City two decades ago
6. SKC II in Action
Sporting Kansas City II (4-6-1, 13 points) was off last weekend and will continue their seven-game road swing to close out the USL Championship regular season on Saturday night against cross-state rivals Saint Louis FC (5-4-3, 18 points) at West Community Stadium in Fenton, Missouri. The Group E showdown will kick off at 7 p.m. CT, streaming live on ESPN Plus with additional in-game updates on Twitter at @SportingKCII.
7. MLS NEXT
Last weekend at Swope Soccer Village, the Sporting Kansas City Academy kicked off 2020 competition as part of MLS NEXT, the new elite youth development platform created by Major League Soccer in collaboration with the top elite youth academies around the country, ushering in the future of soccer in North America.
MLS NEXT was unveiled last week exclusively to the elite youth player group, as well as young players aspiring to achieve a spot on one of the platform’s 489 teams across 113 clubs. MLS NEXT clubs began the inaugural season on Saturday and Sunday, with the Sporting KC U-15s, U-17s and U-19s all earning 1-0 victories over Saint Louis FC.
8. Tune In Tuesday
A new episode of the Sporting Kansas City Show will debut Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT on Sports Radio 810 WHB. Hosts Nate Bukaty, Carter Augustine and Aly Trost will hear from a Sporting guest, recap a busy weekend of MLS action and preview Saturday's clash against FC Dallas at Children's Mercy Park. Previous episodes of the Sporting Kansas City Show are available here.