The release of the MLS regular season schedule offers clues on when other soccer tournaments may end up on Sporting KC's calendar.
This season will be one of the most crowded in Sporting Kansas City's history. Along with the regular season race for the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup, Sporting KC will be defending their 2012 U.S. Open Cup championship and playing in the continental CONCACAF Champions League tournament. Several players are also expected to represent their national teams in various competitions across the globe throughout 2013.
Unlike many North American sports in which set dates and times for tournaments years in advance, soccer federations often wait to release their tournament dates until a few months prior to the tournament. The CONCACAF Gold Cup--the tournament of national sides to determine a continental champion--has not announced individual game dates but has a FIFA calendar window from July 7th-28th. Two other tournaments, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions League, have not announced any dates.
The MLS schedule-makers have a good idea as to when other tournaments are to be scheduled and create windows in the MLS calendar to reduce potential conflicts. These schedule windows give us clues as to when these other tournaments may be scheduled. With this knowledge we put together a tentative calendar of all events for Sporting Kansas City.
Update January 17, 2013: Eric Anderson from TheCup.us has reported dates for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup that give us a better picture of the upcoming season. Notably, the U.S. Open Cup Final is projected to occur much later in the year than in 2012 and the 4th round game is projected to occur the day after the USA-Panama game. If Sporting Park is selected as the host for the qualifier, SKC may have to look at other venue or date options for the 4th round game. We have updated our projected schedule accordingly. Per the original source at Midwest Soccer, these dates are still to be reviewed and ratified by the Open Cup Committee so they will remain tentative.
Please note this is not a finalized schedule. It was not assembled with insider knowledge or nebulous "sources." This is conjecture to decipher how four interwoven competitions and an All-Star Game could be scheduled around the MLS regular season.
Additional Notes & Thoughts:
- Only the MLS Regular Season, MLS All-Star Game and the World Cup qualifiers are set at this time. If the United States places 4th in the final round of World Cup qualifying they would have to play a two-leg intercontinental playoff with Oceania in mid-November. Some MLS players could be required to make a long trip to New Zealand in the middle of the MLS Cup playoffs.
- FIFA has an established friendly game date of August 14th. Although nothing has been scheduled on this date for the US national team, it is possible either the U.S. Open Cup Final or a CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage game will also be scheduled around this date. If this conflict arose Peter Vermes would likely keep Sporting KC players from playing for their national sides.
- The CONCACAF Gold Cup schedule was derived from the 2009 Gold Cup which also worked around the FIFA World Cup qualifier schedule. Three group stage games were played over ten days, followed by three knockout rounds over eight days. All dates are only tentative by a day or two.
- The CONCACAF Champions League is also tentative but are typically played mid-week in the late summer and fall. If the MLS mid-week schedule is clear or if none of the qualified teams are scheduled to play mid-week it implies there will be a group stage game at that time.
- If there was a scheduling hierarchy among the game types, the U.S. Open Cup would be on the lowest tier. The tournament has bounced around the calendar for years, and consequently it is the most difficult to fit into the schedule. The 2013 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup schedule is largely derived from the 2012 schedule. MLS teams enter at the 3rd round. As a single-elimination tournament Sporting Kansas City would not play any additional rounds with a loss.
- Not all player's obligations have been listed. For example, Kei Kamara and Lawrence Olum may miss time due to World Cup obligations for their national sides in Africa. These qualifiers coincide with the USA's qualifiers on the schedule and so have been removed to make the schedule easier to digest.
- It is still possible for Sporting Kansas City to schedule a summer friendly against a European side, perhaps scheduling a game on July 17 or on a US Open Cup date if the team loses early in the tournament. Keep in mind that the All-Star Game will likely feature a major European side.
This tentative schedule demonstrates the challenge ahead for Peter Vermes. 2013 will test the depth of Sporting Kansas City's roster. Peter Vermes could feature a lot more roster changes and substitutions than he demonstrated last year, particularly in the early summer. If injuries mount up or players appear tired by the end of the season, it could be the due to the collective wear from a very busy schedule.
Thoughts on the tentative 2013 schedule? Will you be "soccer-ed out" by the time September and October roll around? Offer your comments below.