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.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Stoke City

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  • Foxes unbeaten in five vs. Stoke
  • Drew 2-2 at the Potteries on Nov. 4
  • Leicester leads all-time 34W-34D-31L

Leicester City can rejoin the Top Seven with a win and help on Friday when it hosts relegation-threatened Stoke City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Foxes sit eighth in the Premier League table, a point back of Burnley (The Clarets host Southampton on Saturday)

Stoke, meanwhile, is two points back of safety. The half-full glass says the Potters have only lost once since Paul Lambert took over as boss, but the half-empty one sees draws against Watford and Brighton to go a loss at Bournemouth.

What they’re saying

Leicester boss Claude Puel on Stoke’s fortunes: “Shaqiri can make the difference and at the moment they play well with a good fighting spirit. I think they play good football on the floor. When they recover the ball they try to get in behind and make good pressing on the opponent. Shaqiri has more freedom and plays between the lines and they are a good team at this moment.”

Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri on Paul Lambert’s style“He has a German mentality with his teams… I’m really glad he came here. With German teams they always sit together – there are no phones on the table. It’s brought us more together – when you eat together you have to speak more to other team-mates who you don’t normally speak to. It’s a good thing.”

Prediction

Phone ban or no, it will take improved communication to deal with Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and Adrien Silva. Leicester gets another win, 3-0.

FA charges Guardiola for wearing yellow ribbon to advocate Catalonia

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The English Football Association has charged Pep Guardiola for wearing a political message.

Guardiola has been wearing a yellow ribbon in support of Catalan independence, and that’s in breach of the FA’s kit and advertising regulations.

[ PL PREVIEW: Liverpool vs. West Ham ]

The Manchester City boss was born in Santpedor in central Catalonia, and played for Catalan club Barcelona in addition to representing both the Spain and Catalonia national teams.

Guardiola has until Monday to respond to the charge.

He’s spoken of jailed Catalans and Spain’s unwillingness to allow a Catalan independence vote as a concern for democracy.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. West Ham United

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  • West Ham one loss in last 8 PL matches
  • Reds won 4-1 in London on Nov. 4
  • Liverpool leads all-time 70W-37D-28L

Liverpool can move second in the Premier League if it handles its business against West Ham United at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Reds enter the day two points and two goals of differential behind Manchester United, and are a point ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea. The Red Devils and Blues meet on Sunday.

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A Mohamed Salah double led the Reds past the Irons in a London Stadium meeting earlier this season, but West Ham is a much different team under David Moyes.

Part of that is a firing Marko Arnautovic, who has seven goals and three assists in his last nine matches for West Ham.

The Irons announced the sale of Jose Fonte to Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang on Friday.

What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool’s Spanish training camp“As always with a training camp, you want the boys to be together the whole day. We are a lot together but not when we have time off so we had that time as well.  The weather was brilliant and everything was easier – if you have to do hard work, which we did there, it is easier if the weather plays in your cards and that was a change of circumstance after a long winter. ”

West Ham’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on the Irons renewed season“We had our targets, but they changed. At the beginning of the season, we were aiming to qualify for European competition, but now we are fighting against relegation, but that is sport, that is football and part of life, so we need to accept it and try to be better and get out and see what’s going to happen next year. If we have all these players recovered, probably next year we are going to be fighting for a European position, you never know.”

Prediction

The Reds are hard to predict, but the lay-off between their Porto triumph in the Champions League and Saturday’s match should benefit Liverpool. 2-1 to the hosts.

Pochettino: Dembele “next to Ronaldinho, Maradona”

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Mousa Dembele‘s been appreciated as a midfielder for sometime, but the Belgian is getting as many rave reviews as any other non-scorer these days.

Tottenham’s middle man got the twice-over from his manager on Friday, as Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino prepares for Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

Calling Dembele a “genius,” Pochettino heaped praise on the 30-year-old.

“I’ve told you, I put him next to Ronaldinho, Maradona, Okocha – players I’ve been lucky enough to play with. For me he’s one of the unbelievable talents in the history of football.”

The temptation is to make a joke about Dembele being next to Ronaldinho and Maradona in the lobby of an awards ceremony, but the player has been dynamite for some time.

The advanced stats, for what they’re worth, aren’t incredibly kind to Dembele aside from his club-best 93 percent passing percentage and average of 2.2 successful dribbles per game. Still, it’s improbably hard to ignore the eye test, and Dembele passes that one every time.

Spurs are off to Selhurst Park for a Sunday match with Palace (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).