And not a moment to soon for the home team. Sporting Kansas City were burdened with a 10-game road trip to start the season while workers finished up their $200-million soccer-specific stadium, and it was a rough ride.
They went 1-6-3 and sit dead last in the Eastern Conference on the night they finally open their brand-new home, which is sponsored by former cyclist Lance Armstrong‘s cancer-fighting organization.
Kansas City will also be without Craig Rocastle (Grenada), Roger Espinoza (Honduras), Stephane Auvray (Guadeloupe), and Shavar Thomas (Jamaica) due to international duty—and first choice goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is unavailable due to illness.
Yes, it’s been a tough couple of months for SKC. But they can take heart in the boost they’ll surely get from the occasion, the crowd, and the fact that their opponents are the eighth-place Chicago Fire (1-4-7), who are just four points ahead of Kansas City in the standings despite having played two more games.
Whatever the challenges, though, it’s undoubtedly a must-win game for coach Peter Vermes’s team. As club CEO Robb Heineman told the league website:
“It’s a massive game. It’s the biggest game in the history of the franchise since we’ve owned it. It’s not MLS Cup. It’s not a US Open Cup final. But it’s right there, number three probably in the history of the franchise. We’ve got to win. Everybody knows that. It’s a big summer for us.”
Most of that summer will play out in the state-of-the-art confines of Livestrong Sporting Park, where 17 of Kansas City’s remaining 24 games will take place.
The field is natural grass, and the stadium has a capacity of 18,500, expandable to 25,000 if needed. There are luxury boxes, field level seats, and two massive HD video screens. The two-story Victory Suite contains a pizza oven where fans can pick their own ingredients, and a well-stocked wine cellar.
Membership in the team’s Sporting Club is free, and all those who join will have access to the Members’ Club section of the stadium, where they can get a beer, burger, and a bag of chips for $5.
SKC has sold more than 11,000 season tickets to the new venue.
Tonight’s game is on ESPN2 at 10:00 p.m. ET.