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Blue Notes: Sporting KC Preseason Announcement, SKC II Signing & Rumor, MLS Playoff Changes

Also, news of a Club Women’s World Cup from FIFA.

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Saguaro cactus in the Tucson Mountains in Saguaro NP in Arizona Photo by: Jon G. Fuller/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Does it feel like everyone is trying to get out all their soccer news right before the holidays? So many stories and so little time!

Sporting KC Preseason Announced

Potentially lost in all the excitement around the MLS schedule release was Sporting Kansas City’s lowkey announcement that they are returning to Arizona for preseason.

“Sporting will begin the club’s 2023 preseason presented by Children’s Mercy on Jan. 6 when players report to Kansas City for entrance physicals, testing and meetings. The team will travel to Arizona from Jan. 9 to Feb. 8 and from Feb. 15 to Feb. 24 with Sporting’s schedule of preseason matches set to be announced in early January.”

You read that right, players report for preseason in two and a half weeks! Then they head to AZ three days later. The season feels like it’s just around the corner. There are no announcements yet for how many games or who will play with SKC at preseason, but we’ll bring you more as it becomes available.

In prior seasons the USL Championship side Phoenix Rising and USL League One side (now headed to League Two) FC Tucson would host matches and the team at their training facilities. I would expect a repeat when further details are released.

MLS Playoff Format Overhaul

According to The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer, MLS is looking at drastically changing their playoff format and the plan appears to be in motion. This adds to earlier reporting from Pablo and Sam Stejskal.

Personally, I hate this. It’s clearly a money play to give Apple more games since they just paid a boatload for all the MLS rights. Obviously, details are still unknown, but it would allow 16 of the 29 teams into the playoffs (over 55 percent!) as well as potentially take away the advantages of finishing at the top of the table. Maybe the higher seeded sides get to host, but it eliminates the bye the best teams got.

The playoffs were super fun with the single elimination format the last few seasons. The Supporters Shield crowned the regular season champ and then the playoffs were a fun race for another trophy. It’s a lot of games considering the Leagues Cup and US Open Cup will add to the 34 regular season games teams already play. It will mean more soccer, which is fun from a fan perspective but when the objective isn’t always to win a match because a team has already advanced, it can get weird.

SKC II Add Former LA Galaxy Player

Sporting KC II announced the continuation of their 2023 roster build on Tuesday. The club announced the signing of Diedie Traoré, who previously played for the Los Angeles Galaxy, LA Galaxy II and spent last year with San Antonio FC who won the 2022 USL Championship.

His time with the Galaxy was mostly spent on loan with Los Dos, but he does have 10 regular season appearances with the first team, including three starts. Traoré primarily plays left back but has the ability to play center back as well.

Traoré is a French and Mali dual national and is still just 23-years-old. He is the ninth player to sign for SKC II this year, including the second player from the outside, joining the previously reported Ethan Bryant who arrived via transfer fee.

SKC II Rumor Too?

In addition to the announced signing of Diedie Tuesday, a rumor emerged that 21-year-old Andrew Draper from Ecuador was coming to Sporting KC as well. However, TBT’s Thad Bell hears that it is an SKC II signing.

He plays for the same club that Felipe Gutierrez started at and has returned to. Full name, Andrew Sebastián Draper Villavicencio, is a winger who primarily lines up on the right and was born in Houston, Texas.

Update 12/21/22: Now it’s official.

Revisiting Sporting KC’s Biggest “Need”

In this very column last week, I shared an article from Matt Doyle and Tom Bogert on each MLS team’s biggest need. It was a throw away link because the need was center back (which we knew). However, I wanted to come back to it because Doyle listed a specific target Sporting Kansas City should pursue.

Leo Pereira.

Pereira plays for Flamengo in Brazil. He plays center back, but there are some issues. He’s another left-footed CB (of which SKC already have two in Andreu Fontas and Robert Voloder). It’s not like you can’t play two left-footed CBs together because right-footed guys do it all the time, but that’s unique. Another bigger issue is he is under contract through the end of 2024. Plus, his market value is listed at €4 million ($4.25m USD). That would mean he would require a sizeable transfer fee and likely become a Designated Player.

Long story short, no thanks Doyle.

Quick Notes:

  • A Women’s Club World Cup is on the way. There is no CCL in America for the women’s teams, so I’m interested to see how they qualify. League titles? New tournament in CONCACAF?
  • A very interesting story on the lie that started that Qatar had bribed Ecuadorian players to throw the World Cup opener (maybe lie is strong, but the guy who put it out turned out to be sketchy as hell).
  • Our own Mike Kuhn tracked down all the SKC Academy players in the draft pool, several of which played for the Swope Park Rangers/SKC II. The draft is tonight.
  • Matt Doyle put out a list of what every team needs in the draft. CB of course for Sporting Kansas City.
  • Olive & York worked together with Grant Wahl’s brother and wife to create the Grant Wahl Memorial Jersey with 100% of the proceeds going to IWMF, a charity Grant was connected to