Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sporting Kansas City opens CONCACAF Champions League group stage on Wednesday


Sporting Kansas City opens the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League group stage against Nicaraguan club Real Esteli FC on Wednesday

The match will kick off at 9 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go. 

The CONCACAF Champions League consists of 24 teams separated into eight groups of three teams that play a round-robin, home-and-away format. 

The winner of each group will advance to the quarterfinals. Sporting KC qualified for the tournament after winning the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Sporting KC was randomly drawn into group 2, along with Real Esteli and Honduran club CD Olimpia. Sporting KC will open their CCL campaign with back-to-back road matches before hosting Real Esteli and Olimpia at Sporting Park.

The 2013-14 tournament marks Sporting KC's first appearance in CONCACAF Champions League having previously competed in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup in 2002 and 2005. 

In 2002, Kansas City advanced to the semifinals of the Champions Cup before falling to Mexican club Monarcas Morelia.

Sporting Kansas City has an abundance of players with international experience having played for their respective national teams, but just four who have previously competed in CONCACAF Champions League. 

Josh Gardner (LA Galaxy 2006, Columbus Crew 2010-11), Kei Kamara (Houston Dynamo 2008-09, 2009-10), Jacob Peterson (Toronto FC 2010-11) and Paulo Nagamura (Chivas USA 2008-09) all have prior CCL experience.

Real Esteli is the lone Nicaraguan side to have qualified for the regional championship in CONCACAF Champions League history, having qualified every year since the 2008-09 edition. Real Esteli plays its home games at Estadio Independencia, however, due to stadium limitations the club was not permitted to compete in the 2009-10 or 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League tournaments.

In 2012-13, Real Esteli was knocked out of the group stage of the tournament after finishing 0-3-1. Midfielder Juan Barrera scored the club's lone goal in the group stage. In 2011-12, Real Esteli lost 4-2 on aggregate to Toronto FC in the tournament's preliminary round.

The club is led by forward Rudel Calero who scored 18 goals to lead the Nicaraguan first division last year.

Sporting Kansas City returns to MLS action on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. CT against the New England Revolution at Sporting Park. A limited number of tickets are still available for purchase at the Sporting Park Box Offices or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.