Incoming MLS Clubs Should Look at SKC

The latest MLS expansion teams can look to Sporting KC for how to succeed in the league
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, April 23, 2014

State of SKC - column on Sporting KC (SKC) & the Kansas City soccer scene.

Major League Soccer, in its expansion decisions, has chosen the cities of Orlando, Atlanta, New York City, as well as Miami (more unofficially official than anything), to put down roots and start teams. With their long history, albeit under different names and badges, Sporting Kansas City have really grown up within the MLS and soccer community.

More recently, Sporting Kansas City have seen a revival in the past few years, not just in the team set forth upon the pitch, but in terms of the structure of the organization by the decisions made and the ideas for the future.

When Sporting KC were under the KC Wizards name and were owned by the Hunt family, they made some good decisions for the future of the club but there was not as much stability in the precision of their thinking. The Wiz, although they were Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup Champions in 2000, didn’t make much headway in the early years of MLS and found it hard to bounce back from the achievements in 2000.

What’s more, MLS – and the Wizards – didn’t have as much of a focus on whom they should market professional soccer in America and therefore, the club in KC struggled to draw the right kind of numbers. It should be taken into account that the first few years the Wizards were in the club, they played at Arrowhead Stadium, where the KC Chiefs play. After the team played at Arrowhead, they relocated to the local minor league baseball team’s home of CommunityAmerica Ballpark, until they finally landed at the current home to Sporting Kansas City – the soccer specific stadium – that is Sporting Park.

The trajectory of Sporting KC’s home is a textbook example to other clubs of the who, what, when, where, and why’s of a soccer club in a city where there may be some weariness of accepting a soccer team and all the expenses that come along with it even if it’s unproven.

Where Sporting Kansas City came from – as the KC Wizards – is eerily similar to how some of the most recent expansion teams in MLS will be in their formative years; in the years that matter to cultivate a fan base, snag some of those television contracts, and to outwardly show the sports community that the team belongs there, is where it will either be a catalyst for successful years or sputter along until the puzzle pieces eventually match.

One of Sporting KC’s current USL PRO affiliate, Orlando City, is one of the only expansion franchises that is taking history into account in which OCSC will be, instead of like the KC Wizards, like a Sporting Kansas City.

Once Sporting KC became Sporting KC, the club looking to turn the club into one that would win trophies and bring about a winning reputation to Kansas City is when the revitalization process began, and continues today, with the soccer infrastructure sustaining not only the first team, but also with the club’s community efforts, the Sporting Club Network, and the way it utilizes Sporting Park.

If the new expansion teams in MLS want to make an impact in their respective cities, they need to see how current MLS clubs have adapted to the changing soccer market and observe what has and what has not worked. Clubs such as Sporting Kansas City can be looked up to for guidance on how to right the ship from becoming a Wizards team to thriving like a Sporting Kansas City.

NEXT UP: April 26 –Sporting Kansas City v. New England Revolution, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., 7:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live

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.