TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Re-signed
Currently locked in a battle to win the Western Conference and set themselves up for a deep playoff run this year, Sporting Kansas City made a move on Tuesday to bolster the club’s standing for years to come.
The All-Star quartet has helped SKC enjoy their most successful era in club history, with four major championships since 2012 (the 2013 MLS Cup as well as U.S. Open Cup titles in 2012, 2015 and 2017) and a team-record seven-year playoff streak.
“These players have consistently performed at a high level and helped the club achieve tremendous success,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said in a statement. “Their winning mentality, work ethic, team-first attitude and all of the contributions they make outside of the soccer field in the community are integral to our strong culture, and we are excited to continue our pursuit of all of our goals with them in Kansas City.”
World Cup veterans Besler and Zusi have each been mainstays in Kansas City since 2009. Besler is the club’s all-time leader in appearances (293), starts (285) and minutes played (25,805) across all competitions. The 10-year veteran is a five-time MLS All-Star (2011, 2013-16), a two-time MLS Best XI selection (2012-13) and was named the 2012 MLS Defender of the Year.
Matt Besler and Graham Zusi were each picked by Kansas City in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft — and have never played anywhere else. | USA Today Images
Zusi joined SKC in the same 2009 MLS SuperDraft as Besler and has also spent his entire professional career with the club, transitioning from central midfielder to winger to right back. He’s landed six MLS All-Star nods (2012-2015, 2017-18) and two MLS Best XI selections (2012-13) while amassing 31 goals and 75 assists in 283 competitive matches, ranking second in club history in both regular-season assists (60) and regular-season appearances (244).
Espinoza arrived in Kansas City a year before Besler and Zusi, before moving to Wigan Athletic in 2013-14 and returning to SKC in 2015. In those two separate stints, he's totaled 247 competitive appearances — seventh-most in club history — with six goals and 35 assists. The Honduran international was named an MLS All-Star in 2012 and has started all 103 of his MLS appearances over the last four seasons since returning from England, having already notched a career-high nine assists this season.
A 27-year-old Spanish defensive midfielder, Ilie signed with SKC in early 2017, starting 68 of the team’s 69 games in all competitions, playing every minute in each appearance. He earned the club’s Newcomer of the Year award last fall and ranks second in the league this season in successful passes, which helped him earn a spot at the 2018 MLS All-Star Game alongside Zusi.