The Sporting Kansas City Academy wrapped up the 2022-23 MLS NEXT season last week, competing at the 2023 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and Showcase at the Toyota Soccer Center in Frisco, TX. After a resilient effort in the final month of the regular season, Sporting's U-17s earned a spot in the Playoffs. A long and taxing season for the U-19s and U-15s culminated in a spot in the Showcase for the two sides, giving them an opportunity to flaunt their skills in front of US Youth National Team scouts as well as college recruiters.
Sporting's U-17s drew the San Jose Earthquakes in the first round of the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs. After Sporting defeated the Quakes at MLS NEXT Fest in May, San Jose exacted revenge in the opening round of the playoffs. Two first-half goals from San Jose forced SKC to send numbers forward in the second allowing the Earthquakes to bag a third. A late penalty from Cielo Tschantret shrank the deficit, but the valiant effort fell short as San Jose advanced all the way to the U-17 semifinals.
The U-17s then suffered a 1-0 defeat to Baltimore Armour in a showcase match before taking down Met Oval 2-0 on the final day of the season. Alex Cunningham scored and then assisted Aiden Benitez in the first half as the group capped off a solid season with a clean-sheet performance.
The Sporting KC U-19s started off their MLS NEXT Cup Showcase with a bang, taking down Sacramento United 3-2. Zac Escobar-Bowie bagged a brace with an early goal and second-half penalty sandwiching a goal from Thomas Mancuso. The California club tried to make the match interesting with two late goals, but the SKC defense held their own to take the win.
Facing RSL Arizona in the second showcase match, Mancuso scored his second goal on the weekend just nine minutes into the match. A penalty kick late in the shortened half for RSL leveled the match at one apiece. The scoreline held throughout the second half. On the final day, the U-19s suffered a 1-0 defeat to Queen City Mutiny.
U-19 forward Zahir Dyke also represented Sporting Kansas City proudly in the Best of U-19 match. Dyke played the entire second half of the match as a winger, giving the East defense nightmares throughout his 45 minutes played in a win for the West.
In the youngest age group at MLS NEXT Cup, Sporting KC's U-15s faced off against South Florida Football Academy to begin the Showcase. The Florida side jumped out in front in the 40th then added a second in the 74th to win 2-0.
Sporting bounced back on matchday two, erasing a one-goal deficit to win 2-1 against Beadling SC. Ian James scored a brilliant solo goal, dribbling the ball through defenders before finding the back of the net from close range. Kyan Detmer fought through traffic to score a goal off his back with just two minutes to play to give Sporting the lead and eventually the win.
James would score his second goal of the showcase in the last match of the season, and Dominik Baczewski sank a free kick to help SKC earn a 2-2 draw against TSF Academy.
With the conclusion of the 2022-23 MLS NEXT season, the Sporting Kansas City Acadmey will be off until early August when preseason beings for the 2023-24 MLS NEXT season. The MLS NEXT competition schedule will be released at a later date.
About MLS NEXT
MLS NEXT is a new paradigm for player development, launched in 2020 to transform youth soccer in North America. Founded on a collaborative approach to governance and a commitment to innovation, MLS NEXT players have access to the highest level of competition, training and personal development opportunities that will prepare them for their futures, both in soccer and in life. Membership for the 2022-23 season includes 137 clubs, 628 teams and over 13,000 players across the U.S. and Canada. Official partners of MLS NEXT include adidas, Allstate, and DoorDash. For more information about MLS NEXT, visit www.mlssoccer.com/mlsnext.