SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. REAL SALT LAKE


The MLS Cup Saturday at 1 pm PST on ESPN

A pair of clubs looking for the second Major League Soccer championship in their histories meet in MLS Cup 2013 when Sporting Kansas City play host to Real Salt Lake.

Sporting have reached the MLS Cup Final for a third time, winning MLS Cup 2000, a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. They were losing finalists in MLS Cup 2004, falling 3-2 to D.C. United at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Real Salt Lake have reached MLS Cup for a second time, winning in their only previous appearance, defeating the LA Galaxy in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in MLS Cup 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash.

The teams met just once during the regular season, on July 20 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

Sporting will be the second team to host MLS Cup by virtue of having the best regular-season record of the two finalists. A year ago, the LA Galaxy become the fourth team to play MLS Cup on their home ground, the first to do it twice, winning both MLS Cup 2011 and MLS Cup 2012, each time against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center.

Sporting have won the last two meetings between the clubs. Their victory in Sandy this year was the first by a road team in the series since 2009, when the teams split their two regular season meetings, each winning on the other’s home ground.

Sporting Kansas City posted the best defensive record in Major League Soccer in 2013, allowing just 30 goals in 34 league matches (0.88 per game). It’s the second consecutive season SKC has led the league with the fewest goals allowed; the last team to win MLS Cup after recording the best defensive mark in the league in the regular season was the 2011 LA Galaxy.

Real Salt Lake scored 57 goals in 2013, the second-best attacking record in the regular season, just one goal less than the New York Red Bulls. When RSL won MLS Cup 2009, they were tied for the league lead that season with 43 goals scored.

The Referee

Hilario Grajeda of Dayton, Ohio will be the MLS Cup referee for the first time. Named the 2013 MLS Referee of the Year, Grajeda has been an MLS referee since 2004. Grajeda was the referee for the 2013 MLS All-Star Game; he was the fourth official for MLS Cup 2012. For his 23 league matches in 2013, Grajeda whistled an average of 23.2 fouls per game, fourth-lowest in the league (among 23 referees, the league average was 24.8). He also gave out 2.7 yellows per game (league average was 3.11), and awarded 4 red cards and 3 penalty kicks.

The assistant referees are Paul Scott and Bill Dittmar. It is the first appearance for each in MLS Cup; they were the two assistants for the MLS All-Star Game. The fourth official is Ismail Elfath.

The Coaches

Jason Kreis became the fourth former MLS player to also win an MLS Cup as coach, guiding Real Salt Lake to their MLS Cup 2009 title.

Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes is looking to be the second person to win MLS Cup both as a player and a head coach. Vermes was a member of the Kansas City Wizards who won MLS Cup 2000, playing the full match in central defense in the 1-0 win vs. the Chicago Fire at RFK Stadium.

MLS CUP 2013 GAME CONDITIONS

Should MLS Cup be tied at the end of regulation time (90 minutes), a 30-minute extra-time session shall ensue and be played to its completion. If no team holds a lead after that time, the game shall be decided by the traditional “kicks from the penalty mark” tiebreaker.

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