Mark the date: Dec. 7 MLS Cup final will be at Sporting Park in Kansas City

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The MLS Cup final will be decided in Kansas City for the first time – and in the country’s heartland for the first time, too.

Championship games in Major League Soccer — 17 of them, previously, starting with the league’s inaugural MLS Cup in 1996 — have tended to be staged along the coasts. The last time Kansas City appeared in an MLS Cup final, for instance, in 2004, that was among the six finals played in California. Three have been played in Washington, D.C., and three outside Boston in Foxboro, Mass.

Two have been played in Texas, at FC Dallas’ stadium. And the 2001 final was in Columbus, Ohio, the only other final played anywhere near Kansas City.

But three years ago, MLS began playing its final at the site of the higher seed (rather than choosing a neutral site in advance). Both of the last two years saw the LA Galaxy finish as the highest seeded finalist. But for this year it is Sporting Kansas City, based out of Sporting Park (pictured above) on the outskirts of the city. There, Sporting KC will face either Portland or Real Salt Lake at Sporting Park on Dec. 7 for the 18th league championship.

Portland hosts RSL on Sunday night for the Western Conference championship; Sunday’s series winner will travel into the heartland for the MLS Cup final.

Here is a breakdown of the previous MLS Cup sites…

  • Carson, California, 5 times
  • Washington, D.C.,3
  • Foxborough, Massachusetts, 3
  • Frisco, Texas, 2
  • Pasadena, California, 1
  • Columbus, Ohio, 1
  • Seattle, Washington, 1
  • Toronto, Ontario, 1

And the last five MLS Cup sites …

  • 2008, Los Angeles
  • 2009, Seattle
  • 2010, Toronto
  • *2011, Los Angeles
  • *2012, Los Angeles

* MLS Cup played at the site of the higher seeded finalist

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