Sporting KC placed in group with Real Salt Lake, Colorado and Minnesota for tournament

Sporting Kansas City has learned their three group stage opponents for the historic MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, joining Group D alongside fellow Western Conference clubs Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United FC.

Sporting Kansas City’s three group stage matches will count toward the 2020 MLS regular season standings, with a full tournament schedule-including match dates and broadcast details-to be announced.

The MLS is Back Tournament draw unfolded Thursday, placing all 26 clubs into six separate groups. Groups A, C and E consist of the 14 Eastern Conference clubs-six teams in Group A and four each in Groups C and E-while Groups B, D and F each consist of four Western Conference teams. Nashville SC has moved to the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the 2020 campaign.

The top two finishers in each group and the four best third-place finishers will advance to the knockout rounds, with a single-elimination bracket from the Round of 16 onward. Matches tied at the end of regulation in the knockout phase will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout.

Group stage play will begin July 8 with the tournament opener between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF, the league announced. The Round of 16 will run from July 25 to 28, followed by the Quarterfinals (July 30 to Aug. 1), Semifinals (Aug. 5 to 6) and Championship on Aug. 11.

The tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League and all clubs will have the opportunity to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool.

Sporting and Real Salt Lake share a rich history as fierce rivals over the last decade. Manager Peter Vermes’ men notably defeated RSL in MLS Cup 2013 and the 2018 Western Conference Semifinals at Children’s Mercy Park as well as the 2015 and 2018 editions of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The Colorado Rapids are Sporting’s most frequent opponent in club history, as the sides have met 78 times since the inaugural 1996 MLS campaign. Across all competitions, Sporting owns a 5-3-2 mark against regional foes Minnesota United FC since the Loons joined MLS in 2017.

Upon completion of the MLS is Back Tournament, MLS plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets, followed by the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup. The final number of matches and the revised schedule for the remainder of the 2020 MLS regular season will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Sporting midfielder Feilhaber retires

Benny Feilhaber

Longtime Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber today announced his retirement from professional soccer.

During a 15-year career, Feilhaber helped Sporting KC win an MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cup championships as well as a Concacaf Gold Cup title and FIFA World Cup appearance with the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Feilhaber, 35, scored 56 goals in over 400 professional matches during a well-traveled club career that included stops in the German Bundesliga, English Premier League, Danish Superliga and Major League Soccer.

Across nine MLS seasons, the creative midfielder recorded 41 goals and 63 assists in 271 appearances and became one of 17 players in league history to notch 40 goals and 60 assists in regular season play.

Feilhaber also earned 44 caps for the U.S. Men’s National Team from 2007-2017, notably winning the 2007 Concacaf Gold Cup, helping the USA to a second-place finish at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and playing three matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

“I have had the humbling privilege to compete alongside so many great teammates and coaches for the last 15 years, and I am extremely thankful for the moments we have shared together on and off the field,” Feilhaber said. “I also want to extend a massive thank you to all of the fans who supported me along the way. They have played an integral part of my wonderful journey since day one.”

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and raised in Irvine, California, Feilhaber finished his Sporting Kansas City tenure with 35 goals and 58 assists in 198 matches (175 starts) across all competitions.

He spent two stints in Kansas City, guiding the club to five straight playoff appearances from 2013 to 2017 and returning in 2019 for his final professional season. His 35 goals and 58 assists rank seventh and third on the club’s all-time charts, and he is one of four players in club history — alongside Preki, Chris Klein and current Sporting defender Graham Zusi — with at least 30 goals and 50 assists.

“My six years at Sporting shaped me as a person and a player,” Feilhaber said. “I had the most individual and team success at this club, making lifelong friends and playing in front of the best supporters I’ve come across. I married the love of my life weeks before moving to Kansas City and we built our life and family during these special years. I’m so thankful for everything the club has given me and my family.

“Peter Vermes and the coaching staff got me to play at a level I didn’t know I had in me. I’m also grateful for the amazing teammates at Sporting and so proud of the winning memories we made with our fans — from the Cauldron to the South Stand and everywhere in between. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and Kansas City will forever be my home.”

-Story from Sporting KC

Sporting KC takes 3-2 loss in Western Conference Championship match

Forward Diego Rubio crossed the ball to Daniel Salloi for a goal in the 20th minute of Thursday night’s Western Conference final in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

Two second-half defensive lapses by Sporting KC allowed the Portland Timbers to overcome an early Sporting Kansas City goal and win the Western Conference finals Thursday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The final score was 3-2 in Portland’s favor.

Forward Daniel Salloi opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Diego Rubio earned the assist, crossing the ball from the right side to the far post where Salloi collected it. Salloi’s goal capped a flurry of early activity that saw Kansas City put four shots on goal in the first 15 minutes.

Salloi put the ball in the net again in the 24th minute, but it was disallowed for obstruction of the goalkeeper. Another Salloi shot in first-half stoppage time went just over the crossbar.

Portland erased Sporting Kansas City’s advantage in the 52nd minute. Forward Sebastian Blanco launched a shot from 30 yards that found the upper corner of the goal. Portland scored again in the 61st minute on a rebound header by Diego Valeri.

The 2-1 Portland lead meant Sporting KC needed twp goals to advance in the playoff. Sporting KC picked up one of those goals in the 81st minute when Graham Zusi crossed the ball to Gerso Fernandes near the penalty spot, but Sporting KC was not able to score again. Portland’s third goal came in stoppage time as Sporting Kansas City took increasingly risky offensive positions in an attempt to win the game, which allowed midfielder Diego Valeri to score on a counterattack.

Portland will advance to the MLS Cup final against Atlanta United FC. The match will be played in Atlanta on Dec. 8.

Sporting Kansas City will start its 2019 season in February. In addition to the usual MLS and U.S. Open Cup competitions, Sporting KC will participate in the CONCACAF Champions’ League, a competition among top club teams from across North America. Sporting KC qualified for the Champions’ League based on its 2017 Open Cup championship.

Portland defender Bill Tuiloma foiled an attacking run by Diego Rubio. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Gerso Fernandes scored in the 81st minute to make the score 2-2. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Sporting KC fans celebrated Fernandes’s game-tying goal in the second half. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Gerso Fernandes took a shot after coming in as a substitute for Salloi. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Fernandes was taken down on a foul just outside the penalty area. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella knocked away a Sporting Kansas City corner kick. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Attinella grabbed a save in the second half. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Diego Rubio collided with Portland goalkeeper in the second half. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Graham Zusi made an attacking run from the right side. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)