A Sporting Kansas City reunion several months in the making will come to fruition Sunday when expansion side Austin FC visits Children's Mercy Park for the first time.
The dominant storyline of the marquee showdown—set for 6:30 p.m. CT with national coverage on FS1, FOX Deportes and the FOX Sports app—will see three club legends return to Kansas City as members of the opposition.
Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff (right), assistant Davy Arnaud and defender Matt Besler, three of the most accomplished MLS players in Kansas City history, will go head-to-head against Manager Peter Vermes and Sporting in the final fixture of Week 4. A limited number of tickets for the match are available at SeatGeek.com while supplies last.
All three individuals have left indelible marks on the field while donning a Kansas City uniform, combining for 784 competitive appearances and seven MLS All-Star selections as members of the club. Five of Sporting's seven major trophies were secured with Wolff, Arnaud or Besler as an integral member of the squad.
Wolff, a forward who recorded 46 goals and 30 assists in 163 games for Sporting from 2003-2006 and 2008-2010, ranks fourth on the club’s all-time goals chart and eighth in assists. Arnaud was even more prolific as a versatile midfielder, placing second in goals (52) and sixth in assists (40) across 273 matches. The duo guided Kansas City to the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title and a trip to MLS Cup 2004 as two of the league's best players at their respective positions.
Then there's Besler, the longtime captain and hometown hero who helped transform Sporting into a perennial title contender at the turn of last decade. The center back enjoyed a remarkable 12-year stint in Sporting blue with a club-record 348 competitive appearances, nine playoff trips, three U.S. Open Cup titles and one MLS Cup championship.
For longstanding supporters of the club, seeing Wolff, Arnaud (right) and Besler line up against Sporting may feel surreal. But the fact of the matter is that Sunday's contest carries significant importance early in the season.
Austin FC (2-1-0, 6 points) have won two of their first three matches as an MLS debutant and will open the season with eight straight road games. Designated Player Cecilio Dominguez and midfield playmaker Diego Fagundez have bagged two goals apiece, while Besler anchored a stout defensive effort that saw Austin post a 1-0 shutout win over Minnesota United FC on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Sporting (1-1-1, 4 points) had their unbeaten start to the season snapped in a 3-1 setback at rivals Real Salt Lake last weekend. The Mother's Day matchup against Austin represents an excellent opportunity for Vermes' men to bounce back on home soil.
It's worth noting that no expansion team since the Montreal Impact in 2012 has won its inaugural regular season match at Children's Mercy Park. Sporting are 5-0-1 in their inaugural home games versus expansion outfits since then.
Lastly, just as Besler makes his return home, it seems poetically fitting that one of his closest friends could make history of his own. Graham Zusi, who has been sidelined since last October with a foot injury, is one shy of his 295th regular season appearance for Sporting. That would vault Zusi ahead of Besler and into sole possession of first place in team history.
In addition to the national broadcasts on FS1, FOX Deportes and the FOX Sports app, Sunday's game will air locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.