Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake face off today in Kansas City at 4 p.m. Eastern for the Major League Soccer title. No, the biggest names in North American pro soccer won't be playing. But that's exactly why you should tune in.
Both squads' success in this year's postseason argue against the big spending on so-called "designated players" as found in Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles. Sporting KC and RSL both built teams through depth, not superstars, though there are a few names taking the pitch today that you'll need to know for the future. Chief among these is Graham Zusi, the KC midfielder whose unfortunate stoppage-time goal against Panama made him a hero to Mexico. Zusi's career has continued to trend upward, and he'll have to play a big part in controlling the midfield if the U.S. has any chance next summer in Brazil.
He's not the only name to watch today, though. Tony Beltran, the RSL right back whose long run of solid form slipped slightly in the later months of this MLS season. If Real Salt Lake is going to win, they'll likely need Beltran to be on top of his game. (He's another candidate for a breakout star in Brazil if the U.S. inexplicably reaches the knockout round.)
The real story, though, is the bitterness growing between the KC and RSL fanbases. While Portland-Seattle is the most prominent and visible MLS rivalry, issues with Salt Lake fans' tickets being nullified and overall massive demand (average ticket resale price: $211) mean there could likely be as many fireworks in the Sporting Park stands as on the pitch. You can watch today's match on ESPN, but we'll be tuning in on our local UniMás affiliate; we encourage you to do the same, where available.