Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City logo.svg
Full nameSporting Kansas City[1][2]
Nickname(s)
  • Wizards
Short nameSKC
Founded1995 (23 years ago) (1995) as
Kansas City Wiz
StadiumChildren's Mercy Park
Kansas City, Kansas
Ground Capacity18,467[3]
OwnerSporting Club
ManagerPeter Vermes
LeagueMajor League Soccer
2017Western Conference: 5th
Overall: 11th
Playoffs: Knockout round
WebsiteClub website
Current season

Sporting Kansas City is an American professional soccer club based in Kansas City, Missouri, playing its home games in Kansas City, Kansas.[4] The club competes as a member of the Western Conference in MLS, having returned in 2015 after spending ten seasons in the Eastern Conference.

Sporting KC began play in 1996 as a charter team in the league, then known as the Kansas City Wiz. The team was founded by Lamar Hunt in 1995. Since moving across the state line, they have been the only major professional sports league franchise to play their home games in Kansas.

For the majority of their existence, the franchise were known as the Kansas City Wizards. The team rebranded in November 2010, coinciding with its move to their home stadium, now known as Children's Mercy Park.[2][5] The franchise has won the MLS Cup twice (2000, 2013), the Supporters' Shield in 2000, and the U.S. Open Cup in 2004, 2012, 2015 and 2017.

The club also has a reserve team, Swope Park Rangers, that plays in the second-tier United Soccer League.

History

The early years (1996–1999)

The Kansas City MLS franchise was founded by Lamar Hunt, who was also the founder of the American Football League, the Kansas City Chiefs, the United Soccer Association, and Major League Soccer. The Kansas City Wiz played their first game on April 13, 1996, defeating the Colorado Rapids at Arrowhead Stadium, 3–0.[6][7] The Wiz players included Preki, Mo Johnston and Digital Takawira, and were coached by Ron Newman. The team finished fifth in the 1996 regular season with a 17–15 record, qualifying for the first ever MLS Playoffs. In the 1996 conference semi-finals, the Wiz beat the Dallas Burn in three games, winning the final game in a shootout, before losing the conference final to the LA Galaxy.

Following the 1996 season, the Wiz changed names, becoming the "Wizards". For the 1997 MLS season, their record was 21–11, sufficient for the Western Conference regular season championship. Preki was named 1997 MLS MVP.[8] In the first round of the playoffs, the Wizards lost to the last-seeded Colorado Rapids. The Wizards had losing records for the 1998 and 1999 seasons, finishing last in the Western Conference both years. The Wizards fired Ron Newman early during the 1999 season,[9] and replaced him with Bob Gansler. The Wizards finished the 1999 season with a record of 8–24, which put them in last place in the Western Conference once again.

Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup (2000)

In 2000, their first full season under Bob Gansler, the Wizards opened the season on a 12-game unbeaten streak. Goalkeeper Tony Meola recorded an MLS record shutout streak at 681 minutes and 16 shutouts, and won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and MLS MVP.[10] Peter Vermes was named 2000 MLS Defender of the Year. The Wizards finished the 2000 regular season 16–7–9, the best record in the league, winning the MLS Supporters' Shield.

In the 2000 playoffs, fell behind 4 to 1 to the LA Galaxy, but Miklos Molnar scored a penalty kick in game three to send the series into a tiebreaker, where he scored again to send the Wizards to their first MLS Cup. At RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., the Wizards, with the league's best defense, faced the team with the league's best offense, the Chicago Fire. The Wizards took the lead on an 11th-minute goal by Miklos Molnar. The Fire put ten shots on goal, but Tony Meola and the defense held, and the Wizards claimed their first MLS Cup Championship. Tony Meola was named 2000 MLS Cup MVP.[10]

Post-Championship struggles (2001–2002)

After the loss of Preki to the Miami Fusion, the team struggled to defend their championship in 2001, making the playoffs as the 8th seed with a record of 11–13–3. In the first round, the Wizards' reign as champion ended with a 6 points to 3 loss to Preki and the Miami Fusion. Despite getting back Preki, the Wizards sat in last place in the Western Conference in 2002. They made the playoffs with a record of 9–10–9. The last two teams in the East, the MetroStars and D.C. United missed the playoffs, which propelled the Wizards into the playoffs. In the first round, the team would fall, 6 points to 3 to eventual champions, Los Angeles Galaxy.

More success (2003–2004)

The Wizards returned to the top half of the West in 2003 with a record of 11–10–9. In the first round of the playoffs, the Wizards defeated the Colorado Rapids in the aggregate goal series, 3–1. That set up a one-game showdown with the San Jose Earthquakes the winner would advance to the 2003 MLS Cup. The Wizards took the lead, but the Earthquakes battled back and forced golden goal in overtime by Landon Donovan in the 117th minute, which sent his team to the 2003 MLS Cup and the Wizards home.

The Wizards started out 2004 mediocre, before turning around in the summer. The Wizards finished the season on a six-game unbeaten streak to finish 14–9–9 for the Western Conference regular season championship. Goalkeeper Tony Meola went down with injury and backup Bo Oshoniyi filled as a replacement.[11]

Jimmy Conrad played with Kansas City from 2003 to 2010

In the first round of the 2004 playoffs, the Wizards lost the first game to San Jose Earthquakes, 2–0. In the second game, however, the Wizards scored 2 goals before Jack Jewsbury scored in stoppage time to move KC onto the conference final. In the conference final, the Wizards held off the Los Angeles Galaxy to reach their second MLS Cup. In the 2004 MLS Cup final, the Wizards went up against D.C. United at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. The Wizards Jose Burciaga scored in the sixth minute, but D.C. United replied with three goals in the first half. KC was given a lifeline in the 58th minute as Josh Wolff scored the first penalty kick in MLS Cup history,[12] but KC lost the 2004 MLS Cup final 3–2.

Move to the East (2005–2010)

Following MLS expansion, the Wizards moved to the Eastern Conference in 2005. By the end of the 2005 season, despite the solid play of 2005 MLS Defender of the Year Jimmy Conrad, the Wizards found themselves outside the playoffs with a record of 11–9–12. After the season, the team's veteran leader, Preki announced his retirement.

In the 2006 season, the Wizards just missed out on a playoff berth with a loss to the New York Red Bulls on the final day of the regular season, finishing with a 10–14–8 record. Lamar Hunt sold the club in August 2006 to OnGoal, LLC, a six-man ownership group led by Cerner Corporation co-founders Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig, a local group committed to keeping the Wizards in Kansas City.

The club dedicated its 2007 season to Lamar Hunt, who had died in December 2006. A good start earned them four wins in the first seven weeks of the season. The club picked up goalkeeper Kevin Hartman from the LA Galaxy to help with that position. Despite winning just four games after the All-Star break, Kansas City managed to finish fifth in the East at 11–12–7 and qualify for the playoffs. The club shifted over to the West as a result of a playoff format change, the Wizards played against Chivas USA. With the Wizards Davy Arnaud's goal in the first game to win the series, the defense and Kevin Hartman did the rest and kept Chivas USA off the scoreboard. In the conference final, the Wizards came up short to the Houston Dynamo, 2–0.

In 2008, the Wizards played their home games at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas, and ended a four-year playoff drought by posting an 11–10–9 record, good enough for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Facing the Columbus Crew, the Wizards earned a 1–1 tie in Game 1 of the first round series, but with a 2–0 loss in Game 2 the Wizards lost the aggregate series 3–1.

In the 2009 season, the Wizards remained at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, but struggled to score. They went 426 minutes without scoring a goal,[13] the longest streak of the season. In August 2009, with the team holding a 5–7–6 record, KC fired Head Coach Curt Onalfo,[14] and named General Manager Peter Vermes the head coach. The Wizards finished with the worst home record in the league,[15] and at 8–13–9 were third to last in the league standings. Top players were Claudio López (8 goals & 7 assists) and Josh Wolff (11 goals), who sparked the Wizards offense.

In 2010, the Wizards finished third in the Eastern Conference and narrowly missed qualifying for the playoffs.

A new home and a rebrand (2011–2012)

With the rebranding (of Wizards to Sporting) the team follows a recent trend in MLS of adopting European-style names, such as Toronto FC, D.C. United, and Real Salt Lake. The title "Sporting" has its origins in Iberia where it is used only by multi-sports clubs with a history of having multiple departments fielding teams across different sports.[citation needed] Kansas City's use of the term has been criticized for inaccuracy and cultural appropriation.[16] At the rebrand announcement, the Kansas City's president announced plans to add a rugby club and lacrosse club.[17] Since then, a partnership with the Kansas City Blues Rugby Club has been announced,[18] but the two sides are not part of one "Sporting Club" and no lacrosse team has been established. The rebranding was met with a mixture of both excitement and disdain by fans when originally announced.[citation needed] With the opening of the new Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, Sporting became the first major-league team to have played in stadiums on both sides of the state line in Kansas City, while Kansas City became the only U.S. metropolitan area other than New York City to have major professional sports teams playing in different states.

Because Children's Mercy Park was not ready for the beginning of the 2011 season, Sporting Kansas City played its first ten games on the road, only winning one game. Once the road trip was over, the team found more success and ended the regular season with the most points of any Eastern Conference team. After defeating the Colorado Rapids on a 4–0 aggregate in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Sporting lost to the Houston Dynamo 2–0 in the Eastern Conference finals.

KC began the 2012 season with seven consecutive wins, in the process setting an MLS record for 335 minutes without allowing a shot on goal.[19] The team finished the regular season first in the East with an 18–7–9 record. KC was led by Graham Zusi, who delivered a league-leading 15 assists and was named finalist for 2012 MLS MVP,[20] Jimmy Nielsen, who notched a league leading 15 shutouts and was named 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, and Matt Besler, who was named MLS Defender of the Year. KC lost to the Houston Dynamo in the conference semifinals. KC won the 2012 U.S. Open Cup, defeating Seattle Sounders FC in the finals, to qualify for the 2013–14 CONCACAF Champions League.

MLS Cup champions (2013)

President Barack Obama honoring the team and their victory in MLS Cup 2013, in the East Room of the White House

In 2013, Kansas City took advantage of MLS's newly-created retention funds to renew contracts with U.S. national team players Graham Zusi and Matt Besler.[21] Sporting had finished second in the Eastern Conference and overall with 17 wins, 10 losses, and tied 7 times in the regular season. In the 2013 MLS Playoffs, Sporting KC defeated NE Revolution in the conference semifinals and Houston Dynamo in the conference finals, advancing to MLS Cup 2013. SKC defeated Real Salt Lake on penalties (7–6) after the match was tied 1–1 in regulation and overtime. It was the coldest MLS Cup game on record.[22]

Return to the West (2014–present)

In the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs, Sporting were eliminated in the East Knockout Round by the New York Red Bulls.[23]

On October 27, 2014, the league announced that Sporting, along with the Houston Dynamo, would move from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference when two teams from East Coast states, New York City FC and Orlando City SC, joined the league in 2015. Sporting finished sixth in the Western Conference that year, again qualifying for postseason play due to the expanded twelve-club field in the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.[24] They were eliminated in the Western Knockout Round by the Portland Timbers, 6–7 in a Penalty Shootout.

Sporting's co-owner Neal Patterson died due to soft tissue cancer in July 2017.[25][26] Kansas City unveiled wordmarks that was worn on the team's jerseys and on Children's Mercy Park to commemorate their late owner.[27] Later that month, the club traded Dom Dwyer to Orlando City in exchange for $1.6 million (in general and targeted allocation money with additional incentives), setting the record for the most expensive internal trade in league history.[28][29][30][31]

The team won the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, defeating the New York Red Bulls 2–1 in the final.[32] The win gave Sporting their fourth Open Cup title, and their third in the last six years. The victory extended head coach Peter Vermes's record to 4–0 in cup finals and championship games with the club.[33] In Open Cup history, Kansas City became just the second franchise in the single elimination tournament to have won four Open Cup finals in the same amount of appearances.[34]

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