Sporting Kansas City Profile
|Major Honours||MLS Cup (2), MLS Supporters' Shield (1), US Open Cup (4)|
Sporting have a rich history which includes two MLS Cup final wins and four US Open Cup triumphs.
Originally called the Kansas City Wiz and then the Wizards, Sporting KC were a founding member of MLS ahead of the 1996 season. The franchise was started by Lamar Hunt, who founded the American Football League and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Hunt Family sold the team to Sporting Club LLC in 2006 and they are currently run by president Jake Reid.
The franchise rebranded from the Wizards to Sporting Kansas City in 2011, although the team nickname is still the Wizards. The official team colours are sporting blue and dark indigo with lead grey as a secondary colour. The SKC logo is a blue teardrop-shaped shield split in half to represent the Kansas-Missouri state line that goes through Kansas City. There are light blue stripes on the Kansas side and an interlocking S and C on the Missouri side. Sporting is written above both in white and Kansas City is at the top of the shield in a lead grey background.
They originally played at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, but they now play their home games at Children's Mercy Park, sponsored by the local Children's Mercy Hospital. The stadium opened in 2011 as Livestrong Sporting Park and the name was changed to Sporting Park in 2013 before CMH signed on in 2015. The stadium is located near the Kansas Speedway and has 18,467 seats with a capacity of up to 25,000 for concerts and other events. The stadium has hosted CONCACAF Gold Cup games, World Cup qualifiers, Olympic qualifiers and friendlies for the USMNT and the USWNT.
The Kansas City franchise has won the MLS Cup twice, as the Wizards in 2000 and Sporting in 2013. They also won the Supporters' Shield in 2000 and have four US Open Cups on their resume. They first claimed the trophy that is named after founder Lamar Hunt in 2004 and have since added trophies in 2012, 2015 and 2017. The franchise has made the MLS Cup play-offs in 18 of its 25 years in existence and the team has only finished below sixth in their conference once.
With Lamar Hunt part of the group that founded MLS, Kansas City were a lock to get a team when the league started. They were initially managed by Ron Newman and star players in the first team were Preki and Mo Johnston. Preki scored 22 goals in the first season as the Wiz won 17 of 32 games and finished third in the West. In the MLS Cup play-offs, they beat the Dallas Burn in a three-game series as Preki scored in the first two games and the Wiz won a game three shootout. In the conference finals, they lost to LA Galaxy in two straight, with the second game ending in a penalty shootout defeat.
Before the 1997 season, the team was sued by an electronics company named The Wiz, so they had to change their name to the Wizards. Preki won the 1997 MLS MVP and Golden Boot with 12 goals and 29 assists. They won the Western Conference regular season but lost in the first round of the play-offs to the Colorado Rapids.
Kansas City missed the play-offs in 1998 and 1999, and Newman was fired early in the 1999 season. Ken Fogarty finished the campaign as interim manager as the Wizards won just eight of 32 games and finished with a -20 goal difference.
The Bob Gansler era
Bob Gansler, who managed the US men's national team at the 1990 World Cup, their first in 40 years, was hired for the 2000 season. The Wizards also brought in USMNT goalkeeping legend Tony Meola from the NY/NJ MetroStars and defender Peter Vermes from Colorado Rapids. The moves worked in a big way. Gansler was MLS Coach of the Year, Vermes was MLS Defender of the Year and Meola won MLS Comeback Player of the Year, MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and MLS MVP. The Wizards won 16 games and tied nine while winning the Supporters' Shield with 57 points. This represented a 37-point turnaround. Meola posted 16 clean sheets and set an MLS record with a 681-minute shutout streak.
In the play-offs, Kansas City beat Colorado Rapids in the first round by winning two-of-three. They faced a must-win clash against the Galaxy in game three of the Western Conference finals and won the game with a sudden-death goal from Miklos Molnar in the sixth minute of overtime. Molnar scored again in the MLS Cup final played in Washington D.C. as the Wizards beat the Chicago Fire 1-0 to claim the title and cap a near-perfect season.
Preki left for the Miami Fusion in 2001 and the Wizards scraped into the playoffs with 11 wins, 13 losses and three draws. In the play-offs, they won the middle game 3-0 against top seed Miami but Preki scored in the deciding third game to eliminate his former team.
After the Fusion folded, Preki returned to Kansas City for the 2002 season and the Wizards again secured the last berth in the play-offs. They lost in three games to LA Galaxy in the first round despite Preki scoring in all of the clashes. In their first CONCACAF Champions Cup, the Wizards beat Santos Laguna in the quarter-finals before losing to Mexico's Monarcas Morelia.
The Wizards bounced back in 2003 as Preki won another MLS MVP and was the scoring champion with a combined 41 goals and assists. Kansas City finished second in the West and grabbed a play-off series win as they beat the Colorado Rapids 3-1 on aggregate in the first round. They led San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 after 80 minutes in the Western Conference final but lost 3-2 as Landon Donovan scored a 117th-minute golden goal.
Meola missed part of the 2004 season with an injury. He returned for the final of the US Open Cup and the Wizards beat Chicago Fire at home 1-0 with a 95th-minute goal by Igor Simutenkov. In the MLS regular season, Bo Oshoniyi took over from Meola and the Wizards won the West with 14 wins and nine draws. In the play-offs, they beat San Jose in the first round 3-2 on aggregate as Jack Jewsbury scored the winner in stoppage time. They shut out the Galaxy 2-0 in the Western Conference finals as Davy Arnaud scored twice. The MLS Cup final was in Carson, California, and the Wizards scored in the sixth minute but eventually lost 3-2 to D.C. United.
Meola went back to the MetroStars and the Wizards shifted to the Eastern Conference for the 2005 season. Jimmy Conrad won MLS Defender of the Year, but Kansas City missed the play-offs and Preki retired at the end of the season.
Gansler was fired during the 2006 season and with Brian Bliss as interim manager, the Wizards missed the play-offs by losing the final game of the campaign. Hunt sold the team in August and unfortunately passed away in December 2006.
The Wizards post-Gansler
Curt Onalfo was hired to manage the Wizards for the 2007 season and the team picked up goalkeeper Kevin Hartman from the Galaxy. Kansas City got off to a good start but won just four games after the All-Star break and finished fifth in the East. Hartman recorded clean sheets in both play-off games as the Wizards upset Chivas USA in the first round. In the conference finals, they lost to Houston Dynamo 2-0.
The Wizards made the play-offs again in 2008 but lost in the first round 3-1 on aggregate to Columbus Crew. In 2009, they went 426 minutes without a goal and won just five of their first 18 games, despite young players Kei Kamara and Graham Zusi having joined. Former star Peter Vermes, already the general manager, fired Onalfo in August and took over as manager. Josh Wolff led the Wizards with 10 goals that season, but they missed the play-offs.
The Peter Vermes era
Vermes had his first full season in charge in 2010, but the Wizards again missed the play-offs. Their name change came in 2011 and the new stadium opened after SKC played their first 10 games on the road while construction was completed. They only won one of those games but got things going back at home and led the East by the end of the regular season. They beat Colorado Rapids 4-0 on aggregate in the first round of the play-offs but lost to Houston 2-0 in the East finals.
SKC started the 2012 season with seven straight wins and went an MLS-record 335 minutes without allowing a shot on goal. In August, they won the US Open Cup at home when Paulo Nagamura converted the deciding penalty kick to defeat Seattle after a 1-1 draw. Zusi led MLS with 15 assists and was an MVP finalist. Jimmy Nielsen posted 15 clean sheets and was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, while Matt Besler was MLS Defender of the Year. SKC topped the East again with 18 wins and nine draws but fell to Houston in the play-offs, this time in the East semi-finals.
SKC finished second in the East in 2013 while also making it through the CONCACAF Champions League group stage. In the MLS Cup play-offs, they finally got past Houston as Dom Dwyer scored the winner late in the second leg. In the MLS Cup final, they hosted Real Salt Lake in the coldest MLS Cup game ever played. The game was tied 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra time was goalless. The penalty shootout went 10 rounds before SKC's Aurelien Collin converted and RSL missed for a 7-6 Kansas City win and their second league title.
In 2014, SKC lost in the Champions League quarter-finals to Cruz Azul 5-2 on aggregate. They made the MLS Cup play-offs as the final seed in the East, but lost the knockout round game to New York Red Bulls 2-1.
With the addition of NYCFC and Orlando City, SKC moved back to the West in 2015. Their season was defined by two lengthy penalty shootouts. The first one came in the US Open Cup final as SKC won at Philadelphia Union 7-6 in eight rounds of penalties following a 1-1 draw. The second came in the MLS Cup knockout round, where SKC lost 7-6 over 11 rounds at Portland after a 2-2 draw.
Justin Mapp and Brad Davis joined the team for the 2016 season and SKC finished fifth in the West. They lost in the knockout round at Seattle 1-0 and also crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage.
Dwyer was traded to Orlando City during the 2017 season and SKC again fell in the knockout round of the MLS play-offs. They beat San Jose on penalties in the US Open Cup semi-final and won another Lamar Hunt Trophy with a 2-1 home win over Red Bulls in the final.
Khiry Shelton and Johnny Russell joined the team ahead of the 2018 season and SKC returned to the MLS play-offs. Sporting beat Real Salt Lake 5-3 on aggregate in the first round but lost in the conference finals to Portland 3-2 through a goal in the ninth minute of stoppage time in the second leg.
Ike Opara was traded to Minnesota in 2019 and SKC missed the MLS play-offs for the first time since 2010. In the Champions League, they knocked out Toluca in the last 16 and Independiente in the quarter-finals before falling 10-2 on aggregate to Monterrey.
Alan Pulido joined on a D.P. contract before 2020 while Benny Feilhaber retired. The season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and SKC won their group at the MLS is Back Tournament in July. Here, Melia made three saves in a penalty shootout as SKC beat Vancouver 3-1 in the round of 16 after a goalless draw. The run ended in the quarter-finals with a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia Union. Back in the resumed MLS, SKC won 12 regular-season games with six losses and three ties to finish on top of the West. Melia again put on a penalty-kick clinic in the first round as SKC won 3-0 after a 3-3 draw against San Jose. Their season ended with a 3-0 loss to Minnesota United FC in the conference semi-finals.
Sporting Kansas City's rivals
Sporting Kansas City have rivalries with Real Salt Lake, Houston Dynamo and Minnesota United FC.
The rivalry with Real Salt Lake started after a brawl between the two teams in a 2011 pre-season friendly in Arizona. Sporting defeated Real Salt Lake in the 2013 MLS Cup final and the 2018 MLS Western Conference semi-finals. They also got the better of RSL in both the 2015 and 2018 US Open Cup. Before winning both match-ups in 2020, SKC had been in a slump against RSL, winning just once in 14 MLS matches since 2014. That stretch included eight losses and five draws.
The rivalry with Houston was built off multiple play-off encounters. Houston eliminated the Wizards in the 2007 Western Conference final on their way to a repeat title. The Dynamo beat SKC again in the 2011 Western Conference final with a 2-0 win. Kansas City still couldn't get past the Dynamo in the 2012 conference semi-finals with a 2-1 aggregate loss. Things changed in 2013 as SKC got the upper hand with a 2-1 road win and eliminated the Dynamo in the Eastern Conference final. Houston got the last laugh with a 1-0 knockout round win in the 2017 play-offs, the last time the teams have met in the post-season.
The new rivalry with Minnesota United has been called "The Nicest Rivalry in Sports". Prior to MNUFC joining the league in 2017, the teams had met in the US Open Cup, with SKC winning in 2014 and 2016. They split two MLS games in 2017 and SKC won a US Open Cup match-up 4-0. The Loons won the 2019 US Open Cup clash. Overall, SKC lead the MLS series 7-4 with one draw. The only MLS play-off match-up was a 3-0 MNUFC win in 2020.
Sporting Kansas City's top players
Among the big names in SKC/Wizards history are Preki, Tony Meola, Alexi Lalas, Peter Vermes, Jimmy Conrad, Roy Lassiter, Eddie Johnson, Josh Wolff, Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, Dom Dwyer, Chris Klein, Benny Feilhaber, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Ike Opara.
Preki is the franchise scoring leader with 81 career goals, 71 of which in MLS games. Dwyer ranks second with 66 total goals, while Davy Arnaud scored 52. Wolff scored 46 goals in his two stints in Kansas City, while Klein finished with 43.
Preki also holds the team record for career assists with 98, and Matt Besler is the leader in games played with 286.
Tim Melia holds most of the Kansas City goalkeeper records with 167 starts, 52 clean sheets, 73 wins and 504 saves.
Johnny Russell and Alan Pulido are the current Designated Players on the SKC roster. Russell is a Scotland native who played at Derby County before 2019, while Pulido is from Mexico, signing from Guadalajara in 2020.