SKC Men in Good Company at USMNT Camp

With 5 KC men looking to make the World Cup roster, inspiration can come from former KC players
by Katherine Rupp   |   Friday, January 17, 2014

John Hefti Photography - SKC, Sporting KC

For the 5 current SKC players looking to make the 23-man roster to Brazil, they can look to a handful of former Kansas City players from previous World Cup rosters for motivation.

Instead of sending 3 men home, US Men’s National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann decided to keep all 26 players who were at the January camp for a pre-World Cup trip to Brazil. That means 5 players from Sporting Kansas City are currently in South America, helping Klinsmann, the coaching staff and other players prep for the World Cup. What’s more, the January camp attendees could possibly be called up to represent the United States if they trained well in January, are on the roster for the South Korea friendly, and if the US has a need for the position.

There looks to be a handful of players already as locks for the World Cup, namely the goalkeepers Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando, as well field players Michael Bradley (the newly-signed Toronto FC designated player), Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley. With the likely addition of Matt Besler and Graham Zusi on the World Cup roster - among the 5 possible Sporting KC men from the January camp – the boys in blue certainly can be proud of representing the humble Midwest city where they play.

Preceding Besler, Zusi, and possibly the 3 others at the camp/pre-WC trip to Brazil – Benny Feilhaber, Chance Myers, and Seth Sinovic – there are a few others who have been Sporting Kansas City (technically, Kansas City Wizards) players while they attended a World Cup.

The first World Cup after Major League Soccer started was in 1998. US-based players then had 2 full seasons under their belt if they were called up to the 1998 World Cup that was held in France. Predrag Radosavljevic – or most commonly, and better known, as Preki – played for the KC Wizards from 1996 to 2000 and then again in 2002 to 2005. A Kansas City and MLS legend, and member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Preki made 28 appearances for the USMNT while scoring four times for the Yanks, as well as playing in the 1998 World Cup.

Not only was Preki a KC player while at a World Cup, in 2002, goalkeeper Tony Meola was called up to play for the USMNT. Because of his name on the roster for the World Cup that was jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan, Meola became one of only a few USMNT players to be on the squad of three World Cups. Meola’s name is still lauded in Kansas City as one whose skills and tenacity as a goalkeeper led the Wizards to win the 2000 MLS Cup.

Another player who is still loved in Kansas City soccer circles and the crowds in the Cauldron is Jimmy Conrad. Joining Conrad from the Wizards on the USMNT roster for the 2006 World Cup was Eddie Johnson – still a US mainstay and most likely in contention for a spot on the 2014 World Cup roster – and Josh Wolff. In fact, those three Kansas City players were the most from any club team represented on the US squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. And although Feilhaber was on the 2010 team, he was not playing for Sporting Kansas City at the time, as he is now.

This year, although unlikely, Sporting Kansas City has the chance to send 5 men to attend the World Cup and be part of the USA roster. Because of Besler’s expertise and experience just in the past year – after his first January camp in 2013 – at left centerback, and with his partnership in the center of the backline with LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez, expect the Kansas City native to receive a ticket to Brazil.

Look for Zusi to also be another Sporting player to go to the World Cup after seizing his moment following his 2012 January camp call up. The Maryland Terps product concluded a fantastic 2013 season for both the US team and Sporting KC by not only winning an MLS Cup but he accounted for two goals in World Cup qualifying.

Feilhaber, on the other hand, is the one KC player who is most on the fence. The midfielder – who was born in Brazil – got ‘Sporting fit’ after transferring from the New England Revolution, had somewhat of a renaissance while playing at Kansas City in 2013. Taking into account that Feilhaber played exceptionally well in the post-season, and has the experience from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he stands a chance to not only be a ‘veteran’ call up but also provide midfield stability as a substitute.

And finally, seeing as it was the first January camp for Myers and Sinovic, don’t expect them to be called up, but it is certainly good news for the future of not only the USMNT but also Sporting KC that so many quality players are coming up the ranks from MLS, and more specifically, Sporting Kansas City.

Even if only 1 or 2 players make the roster, it’s easy to look back to the Kansas City legends of Preki, Meola, and Conrad, who paved the way for the current players to represent US Soccer, MLS, and last but not least, Sporting Kansas City.

NEXT UP: March 8 – Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash. 3 p.m. EST, NBCSN.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.