Getting Back To Our Profession, Playing Games & Giving Homegrown Talent Room To Shine
All 26 MLS teams are coming back in action for the MLS is BACk Tournament starting July 8 and scheduled to end on Aug. 11. This one-of-a-kind MLS is Back Tournament marks the return of Major League Soccer after a four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The days are counting down to the kick off at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. With no spectators, the MLS is BACK Tournament starts on July 8, and San Jose Earthquakes have already arrived in Orlando, Florida to prepare.
Sporting Kansas City‘s squad will travel down to Orlando on July 5 in anticipation of staying longer in Florida as the team hopes to advance in MLS’ return to play 54-match tournament spanning 35 days.
This will be a different professional soccer tournament than events in the past. Not only will the MLS not play the national anthem prior to the games when the season resumes in July but all players will be sequestered in their Florida hotels for the duration of the MLS is BACK tournament.
Sporting Kansas City will kick off their Group D campaign on July 12 against rivals Minnesota United FC before facing the Colorado Rapids on July 17 and Real Salt Lake on July 22, with all three games shown live nationally on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN app.
MLS is Back Tournament: Sporting KC Group Stage Schedule:
|Sunday, July 12
|Minnesota United FC
|Friday, July 17
|Wednesday, July 22
|Real Salt Lake
The Scoop on Sporting KC’s Matches in MLS is BACK:
- Minnesota United FC is Sporting’s nearest geographical foe and the clubs have met 10 times across all competitions since the Loons joined MLS in 2017.
- The Colorado Rapids are Sporting’s most frequent opponent in club history. The sides have met 78 times since the inaugural 1996 MLS campaign, with Sporting holding a 31-29-18 record in an evenly played series.
- Real Salt Lake has served as one of Sporting’s fiercest rivals over the last decade. 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.
Vermes is pleased with the two evening game times but told the media today that the 9 AM match will be a difficult kick-off time for both teams, as it is “not a normal time to play a game.” The squad will have to rise before the sun to get ready to play the early morning match against Real Salt Lake.
The first time Sporting practiced as one group since 2020 season was suspended March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic was June 8 and the team is eager to compete.
Are MLS players in Game Day Shape?
That remains the big question as the days dwindle to the kick-off. Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes also wonders if all the players are in “Game Day” shape.
According to Vermes, if you watch the pros play matches in Europe, “the sharpness of the players is lacking.”
“We are playing against ourselves in scrimmages … it is getting old and we need a different opponent.”Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director
According to Vermes, the real opponent in the MLS is Back Tournament will be the heat and humidity in Orlando. Playing soccer in Florida, especially after the long moratorium, holds special challenges. Orlando’s summer heat is hard on the body and high humidity slows the body’s natural ability to cool and decrease the body’s capability to sweat.
“While there is a good amount of time in between the game,” said Vermes who referenced that the squad hasn’t played any games in months, it will be important to “Take inventory after each game and seeing where the guys are — (especially) the next day to see where the guys are. There may be some difficult calls.”
“If a player has a tight hamstring, do you play him or give the player a rest?” That will be one of the tough decisions to face Vermes and his staff in the coming weeks.
Will the MLS is BACK Tournament be a high scoring series of matches?
“I hope we score a lot and don’t get many against us.”Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director
Sporting KC is well respected for awarding homegrown contracts and giving valuable minutes in the game to younger pros looking to earn their time on the pitch — but will any of the younger squad see time on the field in the upcoming tournament?
When asked this question, Vermes emphatically said yes. Gianluca Busio, Cameron Duke, and Jaylin Lindsey all are healthy and have worked hard during the quarantine period to come back strong.
Busio, who signed in 2017 before he could hold a driver’s license and is now 18-years-old, was the youngest player to sign an MLS contract since Freddy Adu. Lindsey also signed his Homegrown Player contract in 2017, when he was 17-years-old. A native of Overland Park, Kansas, 18-year-old midfielder Duke signed his Homegrown Player contract in 2019.
Vermes is expecting these three younger members of the team, and especially Busio, to make a contribution in the MLS is BACK Tournament.
Not concerned regarding the recent spike in new confirmed cases of the Coronavirus COVID-19 in Florida, Vermes said he had reviewed the testing protocols and that they are “over the top but necessary at this time,” confirming that he feels very comfortable with the protocols at this time.
While no Sporting Kansas City players have tested positive, Vermes acknowledges it could happen. “We have done a lot of things behind the scenes and there has been a lot of thought — the guys are being really smart and have done a good job,” said Vermes.
When asked how the team is dealing with the fight against racism and police brutality, Vermes was proud to say the everyone has been in step with the players.
“We are a family.”Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City
Sporting’s motto, “From many paths, we become one” hangs in a hall.
“From many paths, we become one.”— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) June 2, 2020
A motto we display in our facilities and live by as a club.
We are always stronger together.
We stand against racism. pic.twitter.com/zn1F5kcQnF