The 2020 Major League Soccer schedule is out, and for Sporting KC there is a specific problem: a packed summer. We delve into it here.
The 2020 Major League Soccer regular-season schedules are out, and Sporting Kansas City will face 23 out of the 26 teams. They will miss out on D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls, and Inter Miami in their inaugural season.
For the first time ever, Sporting KC will kick off their regular season in February, when they open the season at the Vancouver Whitecaps. Five of their first seven games are on the road, but while the last couple of summers have not treated Peter Vermes’ side too well with home games, Sporting KC will host 11 games from the start of May through the end of August. However, a ten-game stretch to end the regular season in which they have six road games could be problematic.
Sporting KC also have just two mid-week games on the schedule this season and will be without a summer break as they had the last two years for the 2019 Gold Cup and 2018 World Cup. Another interesting fact is Sporting will be on national television just four times in 2020, with three on the road and one at Children’s Mercy Park.
After a restructured format, Sporting KC will enter the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in round three, which will be played against a non-MLS side between April 21st and 23rd. Progressing in this competition could cause as many as six additional mid-week matches between April and September.
A problem that Sporting KC could run into is this summer’s European Championships, in which they could be missing Botond Barath of Hungary and Johnny Russell of Scotland, but both countries will have to win in the qualification playoffs in March. The tournament begins on June 12th and ends with the final on July 12th. If either country qualifies, they are guaranteed three games in the Group Stage, which is from June 12-24. Both will likely be in the playoff squad, which means they will miss SKC’s game against Real Salt Lake on March 28th.
SKC could also be without Felipe Gutierrez, who could miss games from June 12-July 12 due to Chile’s Copa America run. Both Russell and Barath are likely to make their respective country’s squad, but Gutierrez is on the bubble so may remain in Kansas City. That would be beneficial for SKC given that they play eight games between June 12th and July 12th in a hectic summer schedule. Sporting KC’s depth, then, will certainly be tested this summer if Russell, Barath, and Gutierrez all miss a chunk of time to answer their nation’s call.
More from MLS Multiplex
- Javier Milei Elected in Argentina: Potential Impacts on MLS and Signings of Argentine Players
- Orlando City and New York City FC in the Battle for Matías Arezo; Grêmio Enters Negotiations! Who Will Come Out on Top?
- USA, Honduras, Panama, and Canada Close in on a Spot in the 2024 Copa America
- De Gea Turns Down Al-Nassr’s Lucrative Offer: Speculation Points to Possible Reunion with Messi at Inter Miami
- Messi’s Magnetic Impact in the United States
An advantage that Sporting KC does have over other teams is the lack of international players. The odds are against Scotland qualifying for their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup. Hungary may very well qualify, but Barath is not expected to be a starting center-back — if he is, Sporting KC have more problems than just missing a couple of players due to international duty. Gutierrez would be a massive blow for SKC if he is named in Chile’s Copa America squad. After being SKC’s most inspiring player from a disastrous 2019, he still didn’t have much of an impact for his nation with Arturo Vidal, Erick Pulgar, and Charles Aranguiz all in favor over the Sporting midfielder.
If Sporting KC can stay at least somewhat healthy and get Daniel Salloi and Gerso Fernandes in the form like they had a couple of seasons back, with the addition of Alan Pulido, the 2020 Sporting attack could be among the best in MLS.
I would still be worried about the defense. Much lies in the hands of Roberto Puncec, who will need to show athleticism to cover for the aging legs of Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. Zusi will also need to improve from what was a really disappointing 2019 season at full-back. Another reason for SKC’s troubles in 2019 was the struggles of Ilie Sanchez and others in the midfield. Ilie needs to be able to stay fresh in order to play with more speed and precision. With a packed schedule, especially through the summer months, smart roster management and squad rotation will be vital.
Nevertheless, all things considered, if SKC can figure out their defensive issues and survive the summer, they have the ability to make another run at an MLS Cup.