Sporting Kansas City II (13-9-5, 47 points) wraps up the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro regular season on Sunday when they take on St. Louis CITY2 (11-8-8, 46 points) in a highly consequential Decision Day matchup at Children's Mercy Victory Field at Swope Soccer Village. Tickets are on sale at SeatGeek.com and children 12 and under receive free admission. The match will also stream live at 4 p.m. CT along with six other Western Conference clashes on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV as the regular season comes to a close.
With a spot in the postseason secured by both sides, Sporting KC II and CITY2 will be playing for seeding. SKC II could climb as high as third place and earn a home playoff match, plus the opportunity to select their first-round opponent if they can gain two points on Austin FC II. They could also stay in fourth or drop into fifth place, meaning they will not know their playoff hosting priorities or opposition on Sunday night.
More information regarding the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro playoffs and SKC II's path will be available early next week.
Sporting KC II and St. Louis have met once this season, playing to a 2-2 draw at CITYPARK on May 21. The hosts took the extra point in the subsequent shootout. All-time, this will be the fifth meeting with the previous two matches both ending in draws.
Entering Sunday, SKC II boasts one of the strongest attacks in MLS NEXT Pro. With 59 team tallies on the season, they rank second in the league in goals scored and pace MLS NEXT Pro in expected goals (54.42) and key passes (302). The scoring has been spread out as well with 15 different players finding the back of the net for SKC II this season.
Leading the team in goals scored is forward Pau Vidal and his 11 goals. Midfielder Ethan Bryant has eight goals and has added three assists. Team captain Josh Coan leads the team in goal contributions at 14 (6g, 8a) and set the single-season mark for a Sporting Kansas City second team with eight assists to his name.
On the backline, Lucas Rosa has found space to get forward, bagging four goals and five assists. Three of Rosa's four goals have also taken home MLS NEXT Pro Goal of the Matchday honors as the right back has become synonymous with bangers.
SKC II will be without winger Alenis Vargas who picked up a knock and is recovering for the postseason. Vargas has six goals and five assists on the campaign.
Sporting Kansas City first-teamers have been contributing valuable minutes throughout the entire 2023 season. Ozzie Cisneros paces all Sporting KC loanees with 26 matches played and 1615 minutes. The versatile Homegrown has three goals and two assists as well. Rookie midfielder Danny Flores and first-year defender Chris Rindov have played a massive role in SKC II's success. Flores has two goals and two assists while Rindov has put in more shifts at the centerback role than any other SKC II player with 21 appearances.
Nobody on Sporting KC II has more appearances in goal than Ethan Bandre, who has started 14 times this year. He leads the team with a 1.29 goals-against average and has three clean sheets. Lately, John Pulskamp has started four of five matches. The first-teamer boasts a 4-2-2 record and has conceded just 12 goals all season.
St. Louis comes into Decision Day with nine straight results under their belt. Since July 9, they own a 7-0-2 record and punched their second straight ticket to the postseason after they lost to Columbus Crew2 in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Cup Final. On the pitch, they are led by forward John Klein and his 13 goals. His four assists also rank third on CITY2, trailing former Sporting KC Academy product Wan Kuzin Wan Kamal and midfield loanee Max Schneider's five assists.
While both teams are locked into a playoff spot, there is still much on the line on Sunday. For more information about various scenarios, check out this article about everything that can happen on to SKC II on MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day. More information about the date, time, opposition and location for SKC II's playoff match will be available early next week.
MLS NEXT Pro: Match 28
Date: Sunday, September 24, 2023
Kickoff: 4:00 p.m. CT
Location: Children's Mercy Victory Field (Kansas City, MO)
Watch: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV
Match-specific hashtag: #SKCvSTL