Soccer in Kansas City

Dan Moreno

Soccer has become one of Kansas City’s main attractions in the last couple of years.  From toddlers to the elderly, soccer as it is known in America, or football as it is called in the rest of the world, is rapidly growing in American culture.

The Wizards, a low-profile team, which was introduced as one of the 10 charter members of  Major League Soccer in 1995, announced the re-branding of the team to Sporting Kansas City.

With the new name came its new home.  Sporting Park is one of the top soccer stadiums in America. Proof of this is the Venue of the Year award in 2012, given by The Stadium Business awards. Often called the Blue Hell, the venue cost approximately $200 million and has a capacity of more than 18 thousand spectators. Since the opening, every home game has been sold out.

U.S. National central defender and Sporting KC’s center back Matt Besler, an Overland Park, Kan., native, continued with the team through the name transition, despite offers from other teams.

“Kansas City needed a winning team, a team to be proud of,” Besler said.

Over the last few decades, the Royals and the Chiefs have been unable to put Kansas City on the map due to bad results and forgettable seasons. However, Sporting Kansas City has already won the 2011 and 2012 MLS Eastern Conference titles and the 2010 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which earned the team the right to be part of the 2013 CONCACAF Champions League joining the best teams of North and Central America.

Kansas City is beginning to be called the “Soccer Capital of America.”

On July 31, the MLS chose Kansas City to host the annual MLS All-Star Game against one of the most important teams of Italy and Europe, AS Roma, which ended with a 3-1 victory for the Romas.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber revealed Kansas City was chosen because “the energy the fans bring to the stadium and transmit to the players is one of a kind.”

Kansas City was proven to be the soccer city once again in the recent sneak peak Sporting Club’s CEO Robb Heineman posted on his Twitter account about the training, coaching and referee center that will be built in Kansas City where the U.S. National team will gather for international matches.

The spring of 2013 brought more soccer to America as the National Women’s Soccer League’s inaugural season began in April.

Kansas City jumped on the chance to have a professional women’s soccer team in town after the success Sporting Kansas City has brought the city by forming FC Kansas City. The Blues’ home games are played at the Shawnee Mission District Stadium.

FC Kansas City surprised everyone by ending the regular season tied in first place with Western New York Flash and the Portland ThornsFC with 38 points after 22 games played.

Professional soccer in Kansas City has influenced UMKC, which last spring announced its addition to the Western Athletic Conference as one of the major changes for the school’s athletics.

In order to provide one of the top soccer facilities in the Midwest, UMKC opened the Stanley H. Durwood Stadium and Recreational Field in 2009 for $9 million. Last week, the stadium had a record number of 2,457 fans gathered for the annual Battle of the Blue game, where the men’s soccer team lost to Rockhurst University.

UMKC men’s soccer head coach Rick Benben attributes the growth of “the beautiful game” in America to time.

“Over the last few decades, more and more kids have been introduced to the game,” Benben said. “They have passed it on to their children and the game is being played in every part of the U.S.  The connection to the World game has also helped.  The USA participation on both the men’s and women’s sides over the last number of World Cups has had a continuing impact.  The number of Americans playing and watching continues to multiply.”

In the near future soccer is expected to continue its growth. The MLS hopes to become one of the top professional leagues in the world.

This sport has been around for more than a century. It is said that soccer unites people of all religions, cultures, genders and races.

 

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