KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Two championships in 16 months. A young core entering its prime. Owners willing to spend, and a fanbase mushrooming out of control. Everything is going to plan in Kansas City.
And after collecting their second MLS Cup trophy in a wild penalty shootout win over Real Salt Lake, becoming only the fifth team in MLS to win multiple titles in the process, it would seem Sporting Kansas City’s time atop the MLS heap has only just begun.
Of course, it’s easy to say that after popping bottles. But the sentiment’s got plenty of merit – despite the unknowns all MLS teams, most certainly championship ones, face come offseason – and Sporting hope this is just the beginning of a trophy case-clogging run.
“I could throw LeBron out there and say we’re going to win one, two, three, four, five,” defender Matt Besler said somewhat facetiously, drawing plenty of laughs. “But I saw the potential with this club and where it’s headed and where it was already at. That was probably the biggest factor in signing a long-term deal.”
Besler’s United States national teammate Graham Zusi did the same this June, and despite the fact that both could move on next summer should foreign clubs come calling following the 2014 World Cup, trophies have a way of keeping talent in the fold and attracting plenty more.
As Sporting know all too well, success also attracts wandering eyes, a lesson learned when Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara departed for England in the past year, but it seems the club has had no problem moving on, restocking the cupboard and finally overcoming their playoff yips to bring a long-awaited championship to Kansas City.
“This is definitely the first stepping stone. We’ve kind of created a culture at this club, and the past couple years we’ve grown each year,” Zusi said. “Don’t get me wrong, we’re very satisfied with what we’ve accomplished right now, but we need to take this as a stepping stone into the years to come and try to become one of the dominant teams in the league.”
Don’t forget the region, either.
By defeating Real Salt Lake, a team that knows all too well that titles are hard to come by after winning MLS Cup ahead of schedule in 2009 then falling short in the ensuring seasons, Kansas City is back in the CONCACAF Champions League for the 2014-15 season.
Before that, though, they’ll try to navigate the knockout stages for the first time facing a quarterfinal matchup against Cruz Azul in March.
“I made a joke earlier right after the president and owner came over to me on the field. I said, ‘That’s great. Now let’s go and win Champions League,’” manager Peter Vermes said. “Give me one day to just relax and enjoy this, but that’s hopefully the next thing on our list.”
And after that? Perhaps a Supporters’ Shield, US Open Cup or MLS Cup triumph.
Hey, Sporting can dream about a potential dynasty, right?
“I don’t know about a dynasty. We feel like we’ve got a team that can put ourselves in position to win trophies,” defender Seth Sinovic said. “Obviously, US Open Cup last year and MLS Cup this year. Who knows? We’d like to win a lot more, but we know it’s going to be difficult with the parity in this league.”