Sporting Kansas City 2021 Season Preview

Sporting KC topped the Western Conference last season and are among the favorites to do so again this year.

Having further bolstered their defense this winter while returning all the major attacking cogs from a year ago, Peter Vermes and co. are chasing another trophy.

2020 season

  • MLS Reg. Season: 1st in Western Conference (39 pts - 1.86 PPG - 12-6-3, +13 GD)
  • Audi MLS Cup Playoffs: Eliminated in MLS Cup Playoffs semifinals by Minnesota United, 3-0

Star Players

Alan Pulido

Pulido is a Best XI-caliber player when available, though consistent minutes proved elusive in 2020 between international duty with the Mexico national team then minor injuries that cost him time, including missing their playoff run. The club-record signing had six goals and five assists in 12 matches in his debut SKC season.

Johnny Russell

The club’s new captain has been a steady presence on the wing and should hover around the 10 goals + 10 assists threshold once again in 2021.

Tim Melia
Goalkeeper · Sporting Kansas City

SKC’s stalwart in net almost single-handedly won the club a playoff penalty shootout, further bolstering his reputation as perhaps the league’s best ever penalty-stopper. The 34-year-old is back for more at the base of the improved defensive unit.

Young Player to Watch

Gianluca Busio

One of the league’s top talents for a few years now, Busio is looking for another step forward in his development. He’s still only 18-years-old, but has 48 career MLS games under his belt. He was given the No. 10 shirt this season, a sign of both his confidence and the club’s confidence in him.

Key Acquisitions

  • Nicolas Isimat-Mirin: A veteran of Ligue 1 and the Eredivisie, Isimat-Mirin is expected to be a starting center back for the club. The Frenchman previously featured for the likes of PSV, Monaco and Besiktas, to name a few.
  • Remi Walter: Another French addition who also played in Turkey, Walter is a central midfielder capable of playing the No. 6 or No. 8 role in SKC’s midfield trio. Walter was acquired for free after departing Yeni Malatyaspor and is a former French youth international. At 25-years-old, he’s entering his prime.

Key Departures

  • Matt Besler: For the first time since the club was called the Kansas City Wizards, SKC will begin a season without club legend Matt Besler. The center back signed with Austin FC this winter. Isimat-Mirin is expected to partner Roberto Puncec in Vermes’ first-choice XI.
  • Felipe Gutierrez: Gutierrez and SKC couldn’t agree to a contract and the Chilean international departed this winter after several years in town. He had 19 goals and five assists over 52 appearances and missed all of 2020 with an injury.
  • Gerso: Another SKC regular, Gerso departs after more than 100 appearances for SKC. The winger had three goals and three assists in 2020, starting 10 games.

Projected Starting XI

sporting kc projected xi

2021 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (4): Tim Melia, Kendall McIntosh, John Pulskamp, Brooks Thompson
  • Defenders (8): Amadou Dia, Andreu Fontas, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Jaylin Lindsey, Luis Martins, Roberto Puncec, Graham Smith, Graham Zusi
  • Midfielders (8): Grayson Barber, Gianluca Busio, Cameron Duke, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Hernandez, Gadi Kinda, Ilie Sanchez, Remi Walter
  • Forwards (7): Ozzie Cisneros, Tyler Freeman, Wilson Harris, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton

Armchair Analyst's Breakdown

  • Strength: Sporting have a well-drilled attacking system that has consistently generated a great quantity of high-quality chances over the past few years, and they look to have the attackers to make use of said chances.
  • Weakness: The backline and defensive midfield remain a massive question mark, this time after an offseason retooling. Sporting weren’t as bad back there in 2020 as they were in 2019, but then they got absolutely drilled at home in the playoffs by Minnesota United and it felt pretty much like back to square one.


  • Charles Boehm: 6th in West
  • Tom Bogert: 3rd in West
  • Susannah Collins: 5th in West
  • Matthew Doyle: 7th in West
  • Sam Jones: 6th in West
  • Michael Lahoud: 10th in West
  • Joe Lowery: 3rd in West
  • Jillian Sakovits: 7th in West
  • Greg Seltzer: 6th in West
  • Steve Zakuani: 4th in West