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Sporting KC signs Homegrown Player

Sporting Kansas City has signed Zach Wright, 22, who attended Blue Valley Northwest High School for his senior year, as a Homegrown Player.

A forward, Wright signed the one-year contract with options for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

During 2013 and 2014, Wright competed for Sporting KC Academy U-18s during the U.S. Soccer Development Academy campaign before playing college-level soccer.

Wright scored 15 goals with 28 assists during four years at the University of North Carolina.

“Zach showed a lot of improvement at North Carolina after playing for the Academy,” said Brian Bliss, Sporting KC director of player personnel, in a news release. “We are excited for him to start competing with the team during the preseason.”

Wright was the leading goal scorer for the U-18s in his lone Sporting KC Academy season. He attended Blue Valley Northwest High School as a senior after moving to Kansas City from his hometown of Smithville, Texas.

A heralded college recruit, Wright embarked on a successful career at North Carolina where he played 79 matches with 61 starts. He assisted at least five goals in all four seasons with the Tar Heels – reaching a career-high with 11 assists during his senior campaign in 2017.

In each of his final two seasons as a Tar Heel, Wright was a Second Team All-ACC selection and ranked third on the ACC assist charts.

Wright becomes the seventh Homegrown signing for Sporting KC. MLS established the Homegrown Player initiative in 2007, allowing clubs to promote youth academy players to professional contracts.

According to MLS rules, a club may sign a player to a professional contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has been a member of a club’s youth academy for at leat a year and has met training and retention requirements.

Sporting KC currently holds two first-round picks, No. 13 and No. 18, in Friday’s 2018 MLS SuperDraft.

The team does not have a selection in the second and third rounds, but has the No. 75 and No. 82 picks in the fourth and last round of the SuperDraft. The first two round selections are Friday, while the third and fourth rounds are Sunday.

Sporting KC travels to Scottsdale, Arizona, on Monday for the first phase of the club’s 2018 preseason. Manager Peter Vermes’ men will return to Kansas City on Feb. 3, then travel back to Arizona for the second leg of preseason in Tucson from Feb. 9 to 25.

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Opara joins U.S. Men’s National Team

Ike Opara

Sporting Kansas City defender Ika Opara is participating in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s January Camp through Jan. 28 at the National Training Center, Carson, Calif.

Opara joined a 30-player roster for the annual training camp under U.S. MNT interim head coach Dave Sarachan.

The 19-day program concludes with an international friendly as the U.S. faces Bosnia and Herzegovina at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 28, at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The match is on FS1 and Unimas.

Opara’s first inclusion at the senior international level comes after the center back earned 2017 MLS Defender of the Year honors in his fifth season with Sporting Kansas City.

The 28-year-old spearheaded a dominant defense that conceded just 29 goals throughout the regular season, eight fewer than any other team. Opara set MLS career-highs in starts (30) and minutes played (2,700) while also scoring four goals in all competitions.

In addition to being named the best player at his position, Opara landed MLS Best XI honors for the first time in his eight-year professional career. Sporting KC posted a 0.73 goals against average and 14 shutouts in the 36 matches he played across all competitions.

Opara helped lead the club to the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title and a seventh consecutive appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Since joining Sporting KC ahead of the 2013 campaign, Opara has started 84 of 100 appearances in all competitions, tallying 12 goals and three assists. His banner season in 2017 came after he missed most of 2014 and 2015 with long-term injuries.

On the international stage, Opara first represented the United States at the U-20 level in 2008. He then competed at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, starting all three games, and made eight total starts for the U.S. U-20s in 2009. In 2012, Opara joined the U.S. U-23 roster for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where he started all three group stage matches.

Opara is one of 15 players on the U.S. roster hoping to make his MNT debut. He adds to a strong MLS contingency, as 28 of the 30 players ply their club trade in Major League Soccer.

– Information from Sporting KC

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Sporting KC announces 2018 schedule

Sporting Kansas City has announced the club’s 34-game schedule for the 2018 MLS regular season.

Single-game tickets for Sporting KC’s first 10 home matches at Children’s Mercy Park – beginning with the 2018 season opener versus New York City FC on March 4 and ending with a marquee matchup against defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC on July 7 – will go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, via SeatGeek.com.

Sporting KC season ticket members will have access to an exclusive single-game presale opportunity beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29.

In addition, Sporting KC has made 125 season tickets available for purchase. Group ticket packages for all home matches are also on sale. For ticket inquiries and more information, call 888-4KC-GOAL.

The 2018 MLS slate will see Sporting KC as host of 17 games at Children’s Mercy Park, including 10 Saturday matchups, six Sunday matches and one Friday contest. Each of the club’s three midweek matches in 2018 will take place on the road, marking the first time that Sporting KC’s home schedule has zero midweek games.

Sporting KC’s home slate will feature a variety of promotions, including three bobblehead nights as well as the return of Retro Night, Local Night, Sporting Salutes and more. Supporters can mark their calendars for Feb. 28, when Sporting KC has its season kickoff party at Children’s Mercy Park.

As a member of the Western Conference, Sporting KC will meet each of the 11 Eastern Conference teams once over the course of the year. The remaining 23 matches will be played within the West, featuring home and away contests against 11 conference rivals. Minnesota United FC is the only club Sporting KC will face three times, as the Loons visit Kansas City on June 3 and Aug. 25 after holding the matchup on May 20.

Sporting KC’s 17 away games will be played at 17 different venues, including the first road test on March 10 against the Chicago Fire. That match will follow the club’s highly anticipated curtain raiser against New York City FC on March 4 at Children’s Mercy Park, kicking off at 6:30 p.m. before a nationally televised audience on FS1.

2018 home opponents: Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Los Angeles FC, Minnesota United FC (2), New York City FC, Orlando City SC, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

2018 away opponents: Atlanta United FC, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Minnesota United FC, LA Galaxy, Los Angeles FC, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Every Sporting KC regular season game will be televised live. FOX Sports Kansas City will serve as the club’s television home for the second straight year, airing all regionally broadcast matches with supplementary 30-minute pregame and postgame shows. Like in 2017, fans may also stream regional telecasts via the FOX Sports GO app or FOXSportsGO.com.

Sporting KC is set to make seven national television appearances in 2018 – five on FS1 and two on ESPN. FOX Sports and ESPN enter the fourth year of their broadcast partnership with MLS and will air five matches at world-class Children’s Mercy Park, home to a 104-game sellout streak in MLS competition. FOX Sports and ESPN will also simulcast MLS contests on their Spanish language networks – ESPN Deportes and FOX Deportes – as well as the WatchESPN and FOX Sports GO digital platforms.

Sporting KC opens the 2018 campaign against a pair of 2017 playoff teams from the Eastern Conference, competing against Spanish superstar David Villa and NYCFC March 4 before visiting fellow World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, reigning MLS Golden Boot champion Nemanja Nikolic and Chicago on March 10.

Next is a St. Patrick’s Day showdown with the San Jose Earthquakes at Children’s Mercy Park, followed by matchups with the Colorado Rapids and D.C. United to round out March.

The month of April is highlighted by consecutive national TV battles, as Sporting KC will travel to the LA Galaxy on April 8 (FS1) prior to welcoming two-time defending Western Conference champion Seattle Sounders FC on April 15 for ESPN’s lone broadcast at Children’s Mercy Park. On Wednesday, May 9, Sporting KC will hit the road to face Atlanta United FC – Major League Soccer’s second-highest scoring team in 2017 – in their first-ever trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After back-to-back FS1 home games against Columbus Crew SC and Minnesota, Sporting KC will head west to meet the Portland Timbers on June 9 in their final match before MLS observes a weeklong break for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The team resumes its regular season campaign June 23 versus rivals Houston Dynamo at Children’s Mercy Park in a rematch of the 2017 Western Conference Knockout Round.

Sporting KC will play on the Fourth of July for the first time since 2012, doing so at rivals Real Salt Lake. The road tilt comes three days before reigning treble winner Toronto FC comes to Children’s Mercy Park for an interconference clash. Sporting KC will face Western Conference opponents exclusively during the month of August, headlined by a trip to the new Banc of California Stadium for an inaugural matchup with expansion side Los Angeles Football Club on Aug. 11.

A busy month of September will see Sporting KC play on five consecutive weekends, including visits to Seattle (Sept. 1), San Jose (Sept. 15) and Philadelphia (Sept. 23) as well as a home match against Orlando City SC on Sept. 8. After a home match with Real Salt Lake on Sept. 30 and LA Galaxy on Oct. 6, Sporting KC will embark on a two-game road swing with stops at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Oct. 17) and FC Dallas (Oct. 21).

The 2018 regular season concludes with Decision Day on Oct. 28 when Sporting KC welcomes LAFC to Children’s Mercy Park for the first time in one of 11 MLS matches that will begin simultaneously at 3:30 p.m.

Outside of the MLS regular season, Sporting KC will also begin its defense of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the longest-running and most prestigious knockout-style tournament in U.S. Soccer. Sporting KC was crowned Open Cup champions in 2017, claiming its fourth tournament title overall and its third since 2012. MLS participants are slated to enter the 2018 Open Cup in early June.

Sporting KC will travel to Arizona for both legs of the 2018 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy. The club will train in Scottsdale from Jan. 22 to Feb. 3 and then return to Tucson for the Mobile Mini Sun Cup from Feb. 9 to 25.

Sporting KC 2018 Regular Season Schedule
Home games in caps; kickoff times and FOX Sports KC TV details subject to change
DATE OPPONENT TIME (CT) TV
Sunday, March 4 NEW YORK CITY FC 6:30 FS1
Saturday, March 10 at Chicago Fire 5:00 FSKC
Saturday, March 17 SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES 7:30 FSKC
Saturday, March 24 at Colorado Rapids 8:00 FSKC
Saturday, March 31 D.C. UNITED 7:30 FSKC
Sunday, April 8 at LA Galaxy 8:00 FS1
Sunday, April 15 SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC 3:00 ESPN
Friday, April 20 VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC 8:00 FSKC
Saturday, April 28 at New England Revolution 6:30 FSKC
Saturday, May 5 COLORADO RAPIDS 7:30 FSKC
Wednesday, May 9 at Atlanta United FC 6:30 FSKC
Sunday, May 20 at Minnesota United FC 1:00 FSKC
Sunday, May 27 COLUMBUS CREW SC 5:00 FS1
Sunday, June 3 MINNESOTA UNITED FC 7:30 FS1
Saturday, June 9 at Portland Timbers 9:30 FSKC
Saturday, June 23 HOUSTON DYNAMO 7:30 FSKC
Saturday, June 30 at Montreal Impact 6:00 FSKC
Wednesday, July 4 at Real Salt Lake 9:00 FSKC
Saturday, July 7 TORONTO FC 7:30 FSKC
Saturday, July 14 at New York Red Bulls 6:00 FSKC
Saturday, July 28 FC DALLAS 7:30 FSKC
Saturday, Aug. 4 at Houston Dynamo 8:00 FSKC
Saturday, Aug. 11 at Los Angeles Football Club 9:30 FSKC
Saturday, Aug. 18 PORTLAND TIMBERS 7:30 FSKC
Saturday, Aug. 25 MINNESOTA UNITED FC 7:30 FSKC
Saturday, Sept. 1 at Seattle Sounders FC 4:00 FSKC
Saturday, Sept. 8 ORLANDO CITY SC 7:30 FSKC
Saturday, Sept. 15 at San Jose Earthquakes 9:30 FSKC
Sunday, Sept. 23 at Philadelphia Union 12:00 ESPN
Sunday, Sept. 30 REAL SALT LAKE 4:00 FS1
Saturday, Oct. 6 LA GALAXY 7:30 FSKC
Wednesday, Oct. 17 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 9:00 FSKC
Sunday, Oct. 21 at FC Dallas TBD FSKC
Sunday, Oct. 28 LOS ANGELES FOOTBALL CLUB 3:30 FSKC

– Story from Sporting KC

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