Sporting Kansas City 2023 MLS season preview: Tactics, predicted XI, predictions

Sporting Kansas City are looking to return to the MLS Cup Playoffs after a disappointing 2022 campaign.

Crippled by a slow start, Peter Vermes’ side could only manage a 12th-place finish in the Western Conference, missing out on the post-season by seven points.

However, following some mid-season additions and an easing of their injury crisis, SKC showed excellent form toward the end of the campaign, suggesting they could return as contenders once again this time around.

So, here’s everything you need to know about Sporting Kansas City ahead of the new MLS season, including tactics, key players, and predictions.

Transfers in


Former Club


Tim Leibold

Hamburger SV

Free transfer

Robert Castellanos


Free transfer

Danny Flores

Virginia Tech


Stephen Afrifa

FIU Panthers


Nemanja Radoja

Free agent

Transfers out


Former Club


Nicolas Isimat-Mirin


Free transfer

Kaveh Rad

Hartford Athletic

Free transfer

Uri Rosell


Over the years, Peter Vermes has become known for intense high-pressing in a 4-3-3 shape and nothing has changed. When he has good players at his disposal, it really works. When he has bad players at his disposal, it really doesn’t.

For the first half of last season, Vermes didn’t have the best roster to choose from and it went from one disastrous performance to another. However, the mid-season additions of Erik Thommy and Willy Agada ignited the forward line both with and without the ball. The result? SKC seeing out the season with six wins and just two defeats in their final 10 games.

SKC have further strengthened since then (though they still look short at center-back) and look ready to return as Playoffs challengers.

Sporting Kansas City predicted XI (4-3-3): Melia; Pierre, Voloder, Fontas, Ndenbe; Walter, Hernandez, Duke; Russell, Agada, Salloi.

Russell is the leader for SKC.

Russell is the leader for SKC. / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Russell

He didn’t quite hit his usual heights but, in a struggling side, Johnny Russell still managed 10 goals in 37 appearances across all competitions last season – including eight in 33 regular-season outings.

The Scottish winger embodies everything about a good Peter Vermes side: energy, speed, intensity, and attacking threat.

As the captain and talisman of this team, the 32-year-old Russell will be expected to lead SKC’s charge back into the MLS Cup Playoffs.

As mentioned, 2022 was very disappointing for SKC but the manner in which they ended the campaign once Thommy and Agada came on board leaves fans with plenty of optimism.

It’s rare you see a Peter Vermes side stay down two years on the spin and the experience and quality on his roster is just too good to be out of contention again.

A deep Playoffs run? Not quite. But a return to the post-season? Absolutely.

Will Sporting Kansas City qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs? Yes