Sporting KC’s season tickets sell-out, can growth continue?

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Sporting Kansas City’s growth since rebranding and moving into their own stadium has been quite sensational.

The MLS franchise announced last night that every single one of their 14,000 season tickets have now been sold for the 2013 season. An incredible achievement.

One of the founding members of MLS, — originally known as the Kansas City Wiz, then the Wizards — the club was renamed Sporting Kansas City in time for the 2011 MLS season and haven’t looked back since.

The franchise averaged a club record 19,404 fans during the 2012 season and has sold out 19 straight home games ahead of Saturday’s match against Portland.

“We’ve seen a tremendous response from our fans for tickets,” Jake Reid, Sporting’s Chief Revenue Officer said. “Their support is what makes the atmosphere at Sporting Park so incredible. Our season ticket base is the strongest it has ever been.”

One has to wonder, as the team continues to deliver on and off the field, how much further can Sporting continue to climb?

Well, they will host the first-ever MLS All-Star game in Kansas City this summer in another landmark achievement for SKC. They’ve added Argentine Designated Player Claudio Bieler, who has impressed already and scored four goals in his first eight games in a KC jersey. So great news there.

But losing Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara to EPL sides Wigan and Norwich respectively, have hit the clubs roster hard. And with their participation in the CONCACAF Champions League coming up later in the season, their talented yet economical squad will be stretched even further.

It will be an interesting wait to see if Sporting add any players between now and the closure of MLS’ transfer window on May 6. But of course, Kamara could still return to KC if Norwich City decides against making his loan-deal a permanent one. However that seems unlikely, with several other suitors in the EPL and Europe lined up if the Canaries turn the deal down.

So who could Sporting go for? Well, a top class winger to replace Kamara would be hugely helpful. Graham Zusi is obviously their go to guy out wide or in a central attacking role. But after him, Sporting don’t have much depth of wide-attacking talent.

Looking around MLS right now, some attackers not getting minutes elsewhere and could tickle Sporting’s fancy are Lloyd Sam at New York, Jose Valencia from Portland and Justin Meram from the Columbus Crew. Those are just a few possible signings, but feel free to suggest any players you think would suit Sporting in the comments section below. Maybe the new MLS loan system that was recently introduced can help SKC grab some younger squad players, without eating into their salary cap significantly?

Either way, if Sporting are going to back their commercial success off the field with continued good results on it, they need a deeper squad for the rest of the season. Tick-tock, that transfer window is edging ever closer.

Antonio Conte admits he misses Italy, plans to return home

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This is not exactly what Chelsea’s fans will want to hear on a Monday morning after a resounding 4-0 win at Stoke as the Blues moved up to third in the Premier League table.

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Antonio Conte, who delivered the Premier League title in his first season in charge of the Blues, and his first season in England, in 2016-17, has been speaking of his desire to return to his homeland.

Conte, 48, spoke to Italian radio station RadioUno about his experience in the Premier League and left the door wide-open for a return to Serie A in the coming months as he admitted he misses Italy.

“I miss it, that’s beyond doubt,” Conte said. “Italy is my homeland, so once I have had some good experiences, formative experiences, important and life-changing experiences, I’ll be back. I don’t know when but that’s the aim.

“It’s always difficult to predict the future. Us managers have the most precarious job of all. Today you’re working, tomorrow you’re out. I want to succeed, to finish one project and make the right decision about the next. This experience has given me so much, has improved me so much, but perhaps in the future I won’t be a manager. Perhaps I’ll work as a director of football. I don’t know.”

Conte has been linked with the managers job at Inter Milan and with comments like this, those links will not go away.

Adding further fuel to the fire was his decision to only signed an improved contract over the summer rather than extending his stay at Stamford Bridge. Conte’s current deal is due to expire at the end of the 2018-19 season.

After a tough summer and a tough start to the season which saw a feud with Diego Costa dominate the talk surrounding Chelsea, a loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield, an opening day defeat at home to Burnley, plus some questionable dealings in the transfer market, the pressure was piling on Conte.

His team have responded with five wins in their next six games in all competitions and are right up there with the early pacesetters in the Premier League.

That said, the fact that Conte was under any pressure whatsoever was a joke considering what he had achieved last season when nobody expected Chelsea to seriously challenge for the title. Therein lies why he could want out when his current deal at Chelsea is up, or maybe even sooner than that.

In situations like this I often think about what Eric Cantona did: leave before anybody else expects you to and you’ll go out, and remain, a hero.

Jose Mourinho escapes ban after sending off

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Jose Mourinho will face no further action from the English Football Association after he was sent off at Southampton on Saturday.

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Towards the end of United’s 1-0 win — which keeps them unbeaten and in second-place in the standings — Mourinho encroached slightly onto the pitch (we are talking half a yard here) and referee Craig Pawson sent him to the stands after being called over by fourth official Mike Jones who pulled Mourinho back into his technical area.

Mourinho, in true fashion, then delayed his sending off by shaking the hands of every member of Southampton’s coaching staff before he took his place in the stands for the final few seconds of the game.

After being sent off nine times in his career for various discrepancies over the years, Mourinho is no stranger to having the FA’s rule book thrown at him.

However there is an argument out there, and a credible one, that due to his high profile and history of misdemeanors Mourinho is treated rather differently than most managers.

In his long list of previous incidents where he has stepped out of line, stepping slightly over the touchline at Southampton was incredibly minor.

Common sense has prevailed.

MLS Snapshot: POR carve up 9-man ORL, keep pace with VAN, SKC

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The game in 100 words (or less): All of a sudden, the Western Conference has sprung to life as the 2017 regular season winds down — Vancouver Whitecaps, winners of five of their last seven games (unbeaten); Portland Timbers, winners of four of their last six following Sunday’s 3-0 victory over 10-man nine-man Orlando City SC at Providence Park; Sporting Kansas City, losers of just two of their last 15 games; Seattle Sounders, who had their 13-game unbeaten run snapped on Saturday; and Real Salt Lake, winners of four of their last five. With fewer than a handful of games remaining, Vancouver’s lead on Portland and Sporting KC remains one point after all three sides won this weekend; RSL and Seattle are separated by just three points, three points back of second and third. As for Saturday’s game, Diego Valeri is now a top-two candidate for MVP after scoring two more goals (his 19th and 20th, to go with 9 assists) against 10-man Orlando.

[ MORE: TFC’s Shield celebration delayed | RSL end Seattle’s run at 13 ]

Three moments that mattered

15′ — Valeri extends his streak, makes it 1-0 — The last time Valeri failed to score in a game, the date was July 23.

29′ — Mattocks taps it home after Asprilla’s cross — Huge credit to Diego Chara for the through ball to spring Dairon Asprilla into acres of space. The ball to Mattocks was simple, and he got it right.

59′ — Valeri gets no. 20, makes it 3-0 — Joe Bendik managed to deny Mattocks’ initial effort, but Valeri followed up when everyone in white had already quit on the play.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (15′ – PK, 59′), Mattocks (29′)

The 2 Robbies: City Sparkle, Chelsea Shine, Liverpool Hold On

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe take a look at some of the weekend’s biggest storylines, including Liverpool’s thrilling victory over Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur’s frantic win away to West Ham United and Manchester City’s demolition of Crystal Palace.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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