Sporting KC Known For Its Legends

Representing Kansas City seems to be easy for those receiving the Sporting Legends award
by Katherine Rupp   |   Thursday, August 07, 2014

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

It’s no question that Sporting Kansas City has a vision for MLS dominance this year and in the years to come, especially after seeing what the 2012 and 2013 seasons produced: a US Open Cup and an MLS Cup trophy, respectively.

What has helped get Kansas City to those positions on top of the platform to receive silverware is the tremendous talent of players that coach Peter Vermes has deployed in his years at the helm of Sporting KC, as well as his predecessors who helped get the current staff and team to where they are now.

Currently, there’s a handful of Sporting KC players who represent their country, as well as players who consistently are found on Best XI lists and being called up for certain MLS plaudits such as the MLS All-Star game.

Although these days it’s been Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Aurelien Collin, and Dom Dwyer dominating the lists of names ­­– whether it’s MLS based or for a national team call up – Sporting Kansas City should not forget about its past and the players who preceded the current crop of genuine talent. Remembrance is something that Sporting KC permanently implemented in 2013 when Sporting Legends was announced. As a way to showcase previous players who have made an impact with the Kansas City Wizards (or Sporting Kansas City) and have led the way to make Kansas City the successful soccer city that it has become. The Sporting Legends that were inducted last year and then also for this year’s 2014 class paved the way for the current players who will most likely be legends themselves.

Those who were trailblazers, of sorts, to make what Kansas City has become and what Sporting Kansas City will continue to become harkens back to those Sporting Legends around from the start of MLS and the Kansas City Wizards, and often during the hard years when no silverware was acquired. The 2013 Sporting Legends embody that adversity well as Serbian-born but American-bred winger Preki, New Jersey-native goalkeeper Tony Meola, and Kansas City manager from 1999 up through 2006, Bob Gansler were all named as the inaugural Sporting Legends.

As Preki played for Kansas City for 9 seasons, his name became known throughout the city as the player to look up to and strive to become. Although currently Preki manages USL-PRO club Sacramento Republic (which is building its club strong in its own right), the large majority of people who hear or see his name identify him with the Midwest club. Additionally, Tony Meola was often seen as the type of goalkeeper that kids wanted to be. On the other hand, Bob Gansler was the man in charge when Meola and Preki played and he gathered awards such as the MLS Coach of the Year in 2000 and led the Wizards to the MLS Cup and the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2000 and the US Open Cup in 2004.

This year’s 2014 class is no different with the quality of the selections that were inducted. Included with this year’s class were names that are nearly synonymous with not just the Kansas City soccer scene but with Kansas City in general. Peter Vermes, who – most likely – every American soccer fan has heard of, has successfully coached the Kansas City Wizards/Sporting Kansas City from 2009 and is currently in charge of the ever-popular club.

A player who succeeded Vermes on the backline as a staunch defender for the Wizards, and who also is well known and well liked in Kansas City is Jimmy Conrad. The crowd-pleasing host of soccer-centric YouTube channel, KickTV, flourishes in his new role as he deems himself ‘faux journalist,’ but Conrad also thrived in his role as defender for the Wizards.

2014’s class wouldn’t be complete without a man who is now a Sporting Legend without playing or managing the Wizards or Sporting Kansas City but still was one of the most influential people in making what Sporting Kansas City is now be able to continue as a success. Lamar Hunt, one of the men who originally invested in MLS, was also an original owner of the KC Wizards (as well as fellow Eastern Conference team, Columbus Crew). Hunt’s name is all over Kansas City with the other football team in town, the Kansas City Chiefs, being one of Hunt’s founding NFL teams. It’s only fitting, regardless of its posthumous nature (Hunt’s son accepted the honor), that Hunt received the plaudits of being named a Sporting Legend.

Although it’s always smart to look forward to how far Sporting Kansas City can reach, it is good to acknowledge the past and remember those who have done so much to make Sporting KC what it’s become. So whether Besler, Zusi, Collin, or Dwyer – all who are representing Sporting Kansas City in the 2014 edition of the MLS All Star game – are someday inducted as Sporting Legends, they, and other players, coaches, and the like deserving of the honor, can look to the past to see the quality of person that is a Sporting Legend.

NEXT UP: August 10 – Sporting Kansas City v. Vancouver Whitecaps, BC Place, Vancouver, Canada. 8 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.