Major League Soccer has long been a league that prides itself on its parity, and with the recent influx of talent that has emerged in the league, the past few years have been hyper-competitive. In the past five years alone we’ve seen five different teams hoist the MLS Cup as the league’s champions.

Despite the tremendous amount of competition, Sporting Kansas City has been one of the upper-echelon teams in the league for the past decade as they’ve made the playoffs each season since 2010.

Under the continued tutelage of head coach Peter Vermes, it’s no stretch of the imagination to think that Kansas City will be one of the teams to beat in the 2018 campaign. With the MLS season set to kick off this upcoming weekend, we’ve put together a crash course on Sporting Kansas City’s offseason – as well as some things to watch for this season—as Sporting KC sets off on their quest to capture their third MLS Cup.

Sporting Kansas City Tickets

Click here to browse the full SKC schedule and tickets on SeatGeek, or view upcoming games below.

Highlights for the 2018 Schedule

Sunday, March 4, 2018 – vs. New York City FC
Sporting’s 2018 season kicks-off with a home match against New York City FC, who finished last season’s campaign with the second-most regular season points in MLS. This should be a fantastic early-season match between two MLS Cup hopefuls. Get Tickets

Saturday, June 23, 2018 – vs. Houston Dynamo

After last season’s early exit at the hands of the Dynamo, the first rematch between the two teams since the postseason is sure to be a treat to watch. Get Tickets

Saturday, July 7, 2018 – vs. Toronto F.C.
In early July, SKC will play host to the defending MLS Cup Champions in Toronto F.C. Toronto is one of the most exciting teams to watch in the league, thanks to their high-powered offense which includes Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. This game should be a surefire offensive bout. Count us in. Get Tickets

Sunday, October 6, 2018 – vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
Despite the Galaxy’s woeful form in 2017, SKC’s late-season home match against Los Angeles is worth circling on your calendar. There has been a steady stream of rumors about world-class striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic possibly transferring to L.A., and if he does, you’ll be able to watch him play against Sporting. Even if Ibrahimovic doesn’t end up coming stateside, the Galaxy are an interesting team to watch live as they have tremendous attacking talent with the likes of Romain Alessandrini and brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos. Get Tickets

Roster Overhaul

On the heels of a 2017 season that ended in heartbreak with an opening-round defeat in the playoffs against Houston, Sporting has overhauled their roster by jettisoning some familiar names and bringing in a trio of talented players from overseas.

After trading club legend Dom Dwyer to Orlando last July, Kansas City has continued to trim their roster. Sporting’s front office traded away Benny Feilhaber, who in addition to being this writer’s “man crush” had made over 180 appearances for the team since 2013, and the team also dealt 26-year-old defender Saad Abdul-Salaam. Additionally, they lost Latif Blessing to Los Angeles FC in the league’s expansion draft and saw talented youngster Erik Palmer-Brown sign with Premier League giants Manchester City on a free contract.

At this point you might be thinking that things are looking grim for SKC, having lost a combination of players that tallied 13 of the team’s 37 total goals. However, Peter Vermes has done a fantastic job of signing reinforcements to the current squad, and this year’s team has the potential to be one of the best in franchise history.

Vermes has brought in three players that have plied their trades in major European leagues – Scottish forward Johnny Russell, Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutierrez and French attacking midfielder Yohan Croizet. Russell represented Scotland internationally four times over the course of 2014-15 and should have little trouble finding the back of the net in MLS, given his goal scoring record for Derby County in England’s Championship. Felipe Gutierrez has spent his last six seasons playing for FC Twente in Belgium and Betis in Spain, in addition to representing Chile internationally 35 times. Croizet has spent his last three years playing in the highest league in Belgium and can play both as a central midfielder and out wide on the left.

In addition to filling some of their roster weaknesses with international transfers, Kansas City has done a great job in securing domestic talent as well. Sporting received winger Khiry Shelton in the trade for Abdul-Salaam, and Shelton has serious potential given the fact that he was the No. 2 overall draft pick just three years ago. SKC also signed defender Brad Evans on a free transfer after his contract with Seattle ran out. Evans is a proven winner in MLS with two MLS Cups to his name and 27 international caps. His leadership and tenacity are sure to provide a boost to Kansas City’s backline.

Children’s Mercy Park – A Soccer Fortress in Eastern Kansas

One of the best parts about the recent boom in investments in Major League Soccer is the proliferation of soccer-specific stadiums, where the matchday experience for fans is unparalleled. Sporting Kansas City plays its home games at Children’s Mercy Park, an 18,467-seat, soccer-specific stadium, built as a state-of-the-art facility back in 2011. Children’s Mercy Park offers a fantastic array of food and unmatched sightlines in an intimate, yet top-of-the-line stadium. Attending a Sporting Kansas City home match should be on every MLS fan’s bucket list.

Our Predictions & Player to Watch

As previously mentioned, Sporting Kansas City has made the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons, and I envision them easily qualifying for the playoffs again in 2018. They face some stiff competition in the Western Conference, however, and will need to play well when it counts in order to advance in the playoffs past the likes of Seattle, Portland and Houston.

Our player to watch this season is Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutierrez. Gutierrez is an accomplished player on the international level and has played in some of the top divisions in the world at the club level. The 27-year-old is capable of being a true difference maker in central midfield and is already likely one of Kansas City’s best players.