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It’s Too Early to Give up On Sporting KC in 2019

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It’s always darkest before the dawn.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Sporting Kansas City Peter G. Aiken

Two months ago I wrote a story for The Blue Testament comparing Sporting Kansas City to the Seattle Sounders from 2016 through 2018. About a month ago I wrote a story comparing Sporting KC to Toronto FC’s 2018 season.

At this point, it probably feels a lot more likely that SKC are this year’s Toronto. They made a deep CONCACAF Champions League run, they were decimated by injuries and they never quite recovered. However, Sporting KC still have time to recover, even if it doesn’t feel likely.

But really... are Sporting KC’s this year’s Seattle?

Statistically speaking, Sporting Kansas City are almost certainly not the Seattle Sounders of the last three season. Every team thinks they are the Sounders and are a few games from turning it around. The reality is, most teams don’t turn it around. Statistically they just can’t.

However, for SKC, there is still time. Call it blind optimism. But to quote the famous scholar Lloyd Christmas, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

Let’s just look at the facts for Seattle over the last three years. They turned around the 2017 and 2018 seasons on July 4th. In 2016 they did it on August 7th. Picking a random day from the calendar isn’t always indicative of the amount of time it took for Seattle to turn around. Part of the factor is in two of those seasons they had to deal with the CONCACAF Champions League and in another they had a deep US Open Cup run.

Another factor is that the 2019 MLS season ends about a month earlier than it did in any of the prior three years. So instead let’s break down which game Seattle got the win that ultimately was the turning point in their season.

  • 2016: 24th game
  • 2017: 21st game
  • 2018: 16th game

On average that’s the 20.3 game of the season that Seattle got the win that in hindsight was the moment things started going right.

Sporting Kansas City have completed 18 games. One game past the midpoint of the season. It won’t be easy, but the task isn’t impossible.

Expanded Playoffs

They are seven points out of the final playoff spot. It should be noted there is one more playoff spot available in each conference in 2019 than there were in prior seasons. So it could be said the path to the playoffs are easier.

But for Seattle, they just didn’t make the playoffs they were a high seed that got at least one home game in each of those three season. Their lowest seed was 2016 when they made their latest turnaround. That year they were seeded fourth and defeated SKC in controversial fashion in the knockout round of the playoffs. They went on to win MLS Cup.

In 2017 and 2018 Seattle were the second seed. I can’t imagine that SKC will pull that off, but making the playoffs is far from out of the question. And with the new playoff format being single elimination all the way through, just getting in and being hot at that moment, may be all that matters.

Should you go bet your life savings on a Sporting KC turnaround? I wouldn’t. But there is hope. And to quote another famous philosopher, Jyn Erso, rebellions were built on hope. This rebellion could start Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park.