Sporting KC hopes Saturday’s sold-out match will clinch a berth in the playoffs

In a highly anticipated Western Conference clash rife with MLS playoff implications, second-place Sporting Kansas City (15-8-7, 52 points) will play host to the seventh-place LA Galaxy (12-11-8, 44 points) at 7:30 p.m. CT inside Children’s Mercy Park.

FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus will televise three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m., while local radio broadcasts will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish).

Viewers within the FOX Sports Midwest footprint can stream the match live on FOX Sports GO, and fans elsewhere across the U.S. can catch a live stream via ESPN+. The Sporting KC Uphoria app will offer additional in-game updates.

All tickets for Saturday’s showdown-including general admission and standing-room only tickets-are sold out. With an over-capacity crowd expected, supporters are encouraged to arrive early to Children’s Mercy Park ahead of a marquee matchup between playoff contenders. The first 7,500 fans through the stadium gates will receive a free license plate cover.

Parking lots will open at 4:30 p.m.; the Toyota Plaza opens at 5:30 p.m.; the stadium bowl opens at 6 p.m.; and the match starts at 7:30 p.m.

A victory would work wonders for both teams this weekend, as Sporting KC could move atop the West and clinch a berth in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs with a home win, while the Galaxy could jump above the playoff line with a third consecutive triumph of their own.

Manager Peter Vermes’ side currently occupies second place in the Western Conference, two points behind leaders FC Dallas, and only need a draw versus LA to punch their playoff ticket for an eighth straight year.

That berth could also be secured regardless of Sporting KC’s result, but only if Toronto FC beats or ties Vancouver and Real Salt Lake ties Portland on Saturday. The Galaxy, meanwhile, sit two points behind RSL for the sixth and final playoff spot heading into the final month of the regular season.

Sporting KC’s best-case scenario on Saturday would see the team clinch a top-four finish and a home playoff game. That would require a win over LA and a draw between RSL and Portland, which kicks off an hour later at 8:30 p.m.

Defender Ike Opara nodded home a second-half equalizer last Sunday to help Sporting KC rescue a 1-1 tie against rivals Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park.

Winger Johnny Russell-who will join the Scotland Men’s National Team next week for the resumption of the UEFA Nations League-tallied his ninth MLS assist on the play, tying Roger Espinoza for the team lead in 2018.

In-form striker Diego Rubio came off the bench and nearly bagged the game-winner, which would have extended his club-record streak of eight straight MLS matches with a goal or an assist, but RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando produced a kick save to keep the visitors level.

Led by interim head coach Dominic Kinnear, who took over for the departed Sigi Schmid on Sept. 10, the Galaxy posted their second straight 3-0 home victory last Saturday against Vancouver. Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his magisterial form in 2018 with a brace, reaching 20 MLS goals on the season, before Frenchman Romain Alessandrini buried a penalty kick to seal the result.

Ibrahimovic, an international soccer icon who turned 37 years old on Wednesday, is one assist shy of becoming the third player in MLS history to record 20 goals and 10 assists in a single regular season. The imposing striker has six multi-goal games this year and leads a Galaxy attack that ranks second in MLS with 60 goals scored-a rate of 1.94 per game.

Alessandrini and Norwegian forward Ola Kamara have also reached double-digits in goals, while English left back Ashley Cole, U.S. international Sebastian Lletget and brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos round out a star-studded LA roster.

Despite their potency in attack, the Galaxy find themselves below the playoff line due to a leaky backline. The team hemorrhaged 23 goals during a seven-game winless skid from Aug. 4 to Sept. 15, and their 59 goals conceded are tied for the third-most in MLS.

Sporting KC will look to capitalize on Saturday, boasting the fifth-best scoring offense in MLS at 1.83 goals per game. Vermes’ men have scored 55 times through 30 games, six goals shy of tying the single-season club record set in 1996.

Sporting KC has dominated the head-to-head series in recent years, owning a 4-0-3 record against the Galaxy dating back to October 2015. This stretch includes a 2-0 road win on April 8 that saw Russell and fellow winger Daniel Salloi score second-half goals at StubHub Center-the same game in which Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia made a career-high 10 saves.

LA remains in search of its first win at Children’s Mercy Park, having gone 0-4-3 on their first seven trips to the world-class venue. The Galaxy are 0-5-5 in Kansas City since 2008, with their last away win in the series coming at Arrowhead Stadium in September 2007.

– Story from Sporting KC

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