What started out as an original club for Major League Soccer in 1996, has blossomed into an iconic institution for the Midwestern USA.
The latest team for us to take a look at in our series about football in the USA is Sporting Kansas City which was brought into the league as Kansas City Wizards, then morphed into the Wiz. They were founded by the namesake of our version of the FA Cup, Lamar Hunt.
Mr Hunt is an icon in the sport, having had a club in the old North American Soccer League (NASL) among his other properties. At one time, he was the owner of half the league! They are the only professional organisation in the state of Kansas.
Under the guidance of indoor coaching legend Ron Newman (he won titles with San Diego Sockers), with Preki, and Mo Johnston, they came fifth in the West in 1996, and raced to the conference finals where they lost to LA Galaxy. They followed that up in 1997 by winning the West, with Preki winning Most Valuable Player (MVP), but were dumped out in the play offs by Colorado Rapids. That would be the last time they would be in the play offs until their run in 2000.
By 2000, Newman had been fired and replaced by former USA National Team coach Bob Gensler. They finished the season with the best overall record, while future Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes won defender of the year, and Tony Meola, the best goalkeeper in USA history, won the 2000 MVP. They raced to the MLS Cup where they won in Washington DC 1-0 over Chicago Fire 1-0.
In 2010, the league went through a mood of rebranding and making the league more European, with stars like David Beckham coming over so it was sold to Sporting Group, with the intention of making it a super club like those in Europe that have many athletic clubs underneath one umbrella. Sadly, it was not to be the case as there is only a rugby club. However, they built a stadium, named Children’s Mercy Park, that includes facilities for the USA National Team. Until Lance Armstrong’s fall years ago, the stadium was called Livestrong, but was rebranded to the current name shortly after.
The Supporters Section at the park are called ‘The Cauldron’ and if you have seen any match on television you will have seen how much fun they have at matches. However, there are nine groups that sit in this area, two from other parts of the state and out of state. The Omaha Boys are from neighboring state Nebraska, and Mass Street Mob are from a local college town, Lawrence KS.
The club has won two league titles (2000 and 2013) along with the Supporters Shield in 2000. They also just recently won their fourth Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with their previous successes are in 2004, 2012, and 2015.