Children’s Mercy Park will play host to its next-to-last match of the 2019 MLS regular season on Saturday when Sporting Kansas City (10-13-7, 37 points) duels the Colorado Rapids (10-15-6, 36 points) in a pivotal Western Conference encounter at 7:30 p.m. in Kansas City, Kansas.
Tickets remain available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting and The Victory Project celebrate Kick Childhood Cancer Night with several initiatives aimed to increase pediatric cancer awareness.
FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO will carry three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m., while listeners can catch the action live on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM with The Final Whistle immediately following on 810 WHB.
Sporting and Colorado enter the weekend in desperate need of points, sitting on the wrong side of the playoff line in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Manager Peter Vermes has led Sporting to eight straight postseason appearances, amassing four major titles during that time, and now his team must erase a seven-point gap over the last four matches to climb into playoff positioning as a top-seven finisher in the West.
The Rapids, meanwhile, have made just two playoff trips in the last seven seasons and appear likely to miss out for the third straight year in 2019.
Midfielder Felipe Gutierrez provided an emphatic spark for Sporting in last Sunday’s road loss to the LA Galaxy, striking twice to take his team-leading total to 12 goals.
In addition to becoming the fourth Kansas City midfielder to hit double-digit goals in a single regular season, the Chilean international is now the first MLS player during the Opta era (2010-present) to record at least 10 goals and win at least 50 tackles in a single regular season.
The Rapids endured a tumultuous spring, stuttering to a 0-9-2 start and parting ways with manager Anthony Hudson.
Colorado steadied the proverbial ship under interim boss and former MLS veteran Conor Casey before catching fire under recently appointed head coach Robin Fraser, who won his first three games in charge before the Rapids lost 3-2 last Sunday at Toronto FC.
Colorado has posted a formidable 10-6-4 record and a plus-seven goal differential since May 19.
In attack, Colorado is led by a pair of former Sporting forwards who have combined for 20 goals this season. Kei Kamara (11 goals) and Diego Rubio (nine goals) have shouldered the scoring load for a side that has scored 51 times in 2019, good for the second most in club history.
In 30 regular season home games against Colorado, Sporting are 20-5-5 all-time with 62 goals scored and 30 conceded — including wins over the Rapids in each of their last two visits.
The clubs most recently met on March 17 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, scrapping to a 1-1 tie that saw Rubio score against his former club in the 54th minute before Johnny Russell drew Sporting level with a brilliant 88th-minute free kick.
Two Sporting Kansas City veterans are in contention to reach major career milestones on Saturday night. Captain Matt Besler is one shy of his 300th MLS appearance for the club including playoffs — looking to become the first-ever player to hit that mark — while goalkeeper Tim Melia is one shutout shy of passing Jimmy Nielsen for the most in club regular season history at 46.
Sporting and The Victory Project have championed numerous causes during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, many of which will be executed on Saturday. At the forefront, the new Kick Childhood Cancer training top and scarf of the match will be available to purchase at all SportingStyle locations inside the stadium.
During pregame, Sporting players will wear the gold training tops in warmups before The Victory Project honors more than 50 families affected by pediatric cancer in a special ceremony on the field.
To amplify the #KickChildhoodCancer theme, Sporting will unveil superhero starting lineup and videoboard graphics throughout the evening. Additionally, The Victory Project tent will distribute free Kick Childhood Cancer superhero posters before kickoff while supplies last.
Supporters watching from home will have the opportunity to participate in The Victory Project’s online auction, which will launch Saturday in conjunction with the match broadcast on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus. The auction will remain open through Oct. 1 with a variety of autographed Sporting merchandise, framed memorabilia and VIP experiences up for bidding.
Saturday’s match will also be part of MLS WORKS’ league-wide Kick Childhood Cancer campaign featuring special gameday elements such as the Gold adidas Nativo Questra match ball plus gold corner flags, goal nets, armbands and commemorative jersey patches.
- Story from Sporting KC