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Preview: Sporting and San Jose meet on Sunday in the first round of the Audi MLS Cup qualifiers




(1) Sporting Kansas City vs (8) San Jose Earthquakes, Audi 2020, Major League Soccer Qualifiers, First Round Sunday, November 22, 2020 | 3 pm Cairo time – Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas

Broadcast schedule: English TV | FS1 Spanish TV | FOX Deportes Broadcasting | FOX Sports App English Radio | ESPN Radio 94.5 FMS Español | La Grande 1340 am

How to view | Five things to know | By NumbersPlayoff | Countdown Match Center | Match Notes | Media assets

The first round of the 2020 MLS Audi Cup Qualifiers will see a pair of Major League Soccer Native Leagues on Sunday, as Sporting Kansas City hosts the 8th-seeded San Jose Earthquakes in a Western Conference battle on Sunday afternoon.

The match is scheduled to kick off at the world-class Children’s Mercy Park at 3pm CT with stadium capacity reduced to 18% and comprehensive health and safety protocols in place. The competition will be broadcast nationally on FS1 and FOX Deportes while broadcasting live on the FOX Sports app. Listeners can also watch the event locally in English on ESPN 94.5 FM and in Spanish on La Grande 1340am.

Additionally, fans can access the Sporting KC app at 2:45 pm Cairo time for an exclusive pre-match show with Sporting player interviews and analysis from Nate Bukaty, Jacob Peterson and Carter Augustine. The hosts will also hear a special sports guest in the run-up to the Sunday showdown.

Sporting and San Jose enter the qualifiers in strong form, having ended an unprecedented campaign for the regular season 2020 in strong form. Led by 12th year coach Peter Vermes, Sporting won 6-1-1 from early October to the end of the season, scoring the best MLS during that period in wins (six), points (19), closures (four) and lowest goals against average. (0.63). Meanwhile, Earthquakes went 6-3-1 along the road to take their eighth and final after season in the West under second-year coach Matthias Almeida.

The stakes will be greater on Sunday than ever, with the winner advancing to the semi-finals of the Western Conference on 1 or 2 December and the loser closes their curtains in 2020. The Audi Cup MLS qualifiers will feature exclusively singles play-offs, hosted by the top-ranked club. If the match is tied after 90 minutes, a full additional 30 minutes will be played. If the parties remain deadlocked, the penalty shoot-out will determine the victor. Sporting has noticeably wins six of their last seven penalties in singles knockout matches, and goalkeeper Tim Millia has a perfect 5-0 penalty record in his career.

As the longest running coach in the Major League Soccer, Vermes became the first coach in the league to participate in nine playoff matches with one club. He is also the only coach to finish first in four times over the past decade, during which he missed Sporting only once in the post-season period. Sporting finished first in the West after finishing the season with 12-6-3 and 1.86 points per game, the highest segment in the club’s 25-year history.

Confidence is building in a sports team that scored three straight goals to finish the regular season, marching at the pace of the 270-minute Melia. The defensive line recently saw strong performances from the likes of Roberto Ponsik, Winston Reed, Andrew Fontas, Gailin Lindsay and Amado Dea, while the midfield was marked by a mix of veteran warriors – Roger Espinosa, Elie Sanchez and Gadi Kinda among them – and clever youngsters like 18-year-old Gianluca Busio and co-producer academy.

No team enjoys a more balanced attack than Sporting Kansas City, as it is the only club in the MLS to have five players with at least five goals in 2020. Gadi Kinda, Alan Boldo and Johnny Russell each got six players to win the Golden Boot award, While Khairy Shelton and Eric Hurtado added five each. Sporting finished the regular season with 1.81 goals per match, the third highest segment in the team’s history behind 2018 and 1996.

As ranked No. 8 in the Western Conference, earthquakes atone for the turbulent turbulence of August and September by catching up with a step across the stretch and erasing the deficit as usual. San Jose has gained 14 points from its losing spots this season, including four successive wins. Both totals are the highest in MLS. Earthquakes, which lost only seven of 13 games, trailing 1-0, top the league with 12 goals after the 75th minute.

In order to achieve a sustainable playoff, the Meda team would have to support a leaked defense that allowed for the scoring of 51 goals in 23 matches, five more goals than any other team at a rate of 2.22 per match. Earthquakes blew five or more goals on five separate occasions, the most in a single season in Major League Soccer history despite the short campaign.

Probably the biggest threat in the San Jose squad is likely to be evergreen striker Chris Wondolovsky – the highest-grossing NBA goalscorer of all time and with the best seven goals of the year – and dynamic winger Christian Espinosa, who has put up nine assists, one clear of the lead.

Recent Kansas City projects have been useless to visiting earthquakes. Since August 2004, Sporting has gone 13-1-1 in 15 home matches against the COEX in all competitions. San Jose tied 1-7-1 at Children’s Mercy Park, tying 1-1 in the semifinals of the 2017 Lamar Hunt Cup at the US Open, which Sporting won 5-4 on penalties. Sporting has met San Jose twice previously in the MLS Cup qualifiers, losing 3–2 on the road in the 2003 Western Conference Final and winning 3–2 on aggregate in the 2004 Western Conference semi-finals.

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