Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer (14) passes the ball during the second half of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship soccer game against Houston Dynamo at Sporting Park. Sporting KC won 2-1. (Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports)

An Early Look at the MLS Cup Final


 

This weekend revealed the two teams who will play in the 18th MLS Cup Final: Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake. The teams will meet in Kansas City on December 7th to determine the champion of the 2013 MLS season.

Sporting overcame the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night, 2-1. At 22 degrees, it was the coldest game in MLS history. An early goal by Houston made it look like Sporting was in trouble, but they found their rhythm and won to guarantee themselves a spot in the championship.

Real Salt Lake already had a 4-2 aggregate lead on the Portland Timbers coming into the game Sunday night (they played two games, the team with most goals moves on). The Portland crowd was loud and ready to support their team, but found that they would not be moving on after RSL scored an early goal to put the aggregate score out of Portland’s reach.

Both teams finished second in their respective conference: Sporting with 58 points, RSL with 56. And both teams already possess one championship trophy, the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy. For those of you who are curious, Anschutz was one of the original founders of the MLS and several teams.

Sporting’s lone championship came in 2000, when they were still known as the Kansas City Wizards. They won the Supporter’s Shield trophy (most regular season points) and eventually defeated the Chicago Fire in the Final. Peter Vermes, the now-manager of Sporting KC,  played a full 90 minutes for the Wizards on that championship day.

Salt Lake captured their trophy in 2009, barely sneaking into the playoffs and upsetting the LA Galaxy in the Final. (Back then the playoff format was different. Once the regular season was ended, all the playoff teams were seeded together, so there was no East and West bracket. The teams were seeded 1 through 8, and then the playoffs continued as normal playoffs would.) RSL Manager Jason Kreis has been at the helm since 2007, so he obviously knows how to win the big game.

(I found a rather interesting note while researching the 2009 season. The Kansas City Wizards’ attendance in 2009 was 10,053 per game. Now in 2013, the average Sporting KC attendance is 19,709. That’s a ton of growth in 4 years!)

Sporting and Real have played once this year, a 2-1 victory for Sporting in Salt Lake City.

This is an excellent matchup to showcase the talent in the MLS. Both teams have played quality soccer all season. Personally, I can’t wait for December 7th.

For the next two weeks, keep coming back to KC Kingdom as we cover all the news and the build anticipation.

 

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Tags: Sporting Kansas City