Sporting Kansas City will begin their 2019 campaign matching up against Mexican side Deportivo Toluca F.C. at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 at Children’s Mercy Park. This match-up is the initial hurdle in SKC’s goal of becoming the first MLS club to win the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL), a tournament consisting of champions throughout the Caribbean, North, and Central America. Sporting qualified for CCL by winning the 2017 US Open Cup.
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The tournament is formatted with aggregate series (home and away games where total goals are added together) in a 16 team bracket. Sporting will first host Toluca this Thursday (February 21st) at Children’s Mercy Park before travelling to Toluca, Mexico (about an hour west of Mexico City) for the second leg on Thursday, February 28th. The winner of the series will move onto the quarterfinals and face the winner of Toronto FC and Independiente F.C. of Panama.
Champions League will be a big test for Sporting. They will have to not only attempt to win the tournament but also figure out how to manage a very congested beginning to their season. After competing in the first round of CCL, SKC will travel to Los Angeles to face LAFC in their MLS season opener. If Sporting were to win the series vs Toluca, they will then fly to Toronto or Panama for a midweek match up in the CCL quarterfinals first leg. Following the first leg, they would fly back to Kansas City for their MLS home opener against the Philadelphia Union before finishing up the quarterfinal series with the second leg just a few days later.
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With so many games and so much travel in so little time, Sporting will certainly have to use a lot of the depth they’ve recently acquired. SKC brought back much of its core from last season with the exception of Center Back, Ike Opara being traded to Minnesota. Strikers Diego Rubio and Khiry Shelton also left for new homes in Colorado and Germany. This offseason, Sporting filled out the lineup with a number of MLS veterans: Kelyn Rowe, Rodney Wallace, and Erik Hurtado, who are likely to see some valuable minutes during this stretch.