Two of the hottest teams in MLS before the pandemic shutdown open group play in the MLS is Back Tournament as Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United play Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.
Both clubs started the season 2-0-0 (6 points), with Sporting K.C. holding the MLS-best goal differential at plus-6, followed closely by Minnesota at plus-5.
The two clubs are part of Group D, which may be the toughest of the six groups. The other clubs in Group D are the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake. Advancing out of this group will not be easy.
"The one thing we do know, we're playing a really good team," Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath recently said. "They had a big overhaul of the squad, spent a lot of money. (Alan) Pulido was $9 million. With Johnny Russell on one side, they have threats. We know that they're going to be very highly motivated. They'll play on the front foot."
Minnesota, who is without defending MLS Defender of the Year and former SKC player Ike Opara for the tournament, made the MLS playoffs for the first time in its three-year history in 2019, while SKC missed for the first time since 2010. But performances from last year, or even the two games played in early spring, matter little now.
The heat and humidity in the Orlando area could be a factor in this match.
"The one thing I think that people at home probably won't grasp is how hot and humid it is down here," Heath said. "I lived down here for six and a half years, so I know what Florida is. But trust me, you never get used to 9 p.m. (and) it being 90 degrees and the humidity being off the charts."
Kansas City has been training in similar weather, something manager Peter Vermes says could help.
"I would say the last couple of weeks' temperature and humidity (in Kansas City could) help us a little bit. The heat and humidity here weren't a shock to us. We're ready," he said. "I really think everybody is champing at the bit to play a game."
--Field Level Media