It’s a pattern that’s well-established for MLS teams recruiting players from overseas: Everybody knows and loves North America’s big cities and coastal communities, but the quieter places in the continent’s interior? Not so much.
Kansas City – both literally and metaphorically – is about as far from places like New York, Los Angeles and Vancouver as you can get. So how do Sporting KC keep drawing talent and competing for trophies year in, year out?
Manager and technical director Peter Vermes provided a fascinating window into that process in a detailed conversation with Chad Smith of TheBlueTestament.com this week, speaking frankly about the challenges SKC face and how they maneuver past them.
“There are a lot of guys that, first off, don’t want to come to Kansas,” Vermes said. “They don’t know where it is, what it is, they think people are riding horses. They really do. Now, no problem if I can get a player here on a recruiting trip, then it’s totally different. I can sell a player in two seconds. But, the other side of it is, most players when they want to come to MLS, they’re thinking New York, they’re thinking California, West Coast. That’s what they are thinking. For us that’s a challenge in itself.”
To further complicate matters, Sporting are not situated in a large metropolitan area to fuel revenue and/or provide hefty Homegrown Player pools like some of their competitors.
“We don’t spend nearly the kind of money that other teams do on our three DPs. That’s just a function of also of, hey, we’re not Atlanta [where] we have a stadium with 70,000 seats in it and we can sell it out,” said Vermes. “It’s a different city, a different market and we’re always going to be that way. We’re going to have to do things a little different and we’ve done that all along.”
So how do SKC field a roster which, despite lacking multi-millionaire DPs, still features ample quality with more players above the max salary-budget charge (a figure that checked in at slightly over half a million dollars last season) than any other team?
Think of all those trades and other transactions in which Sporting appear to be making out like bandits.
“To be fair,” Vermes explained, “the reason why we can do that is because we’ve also I think made some really good deals with other teams where we continue to find ways to accumulate more money. TAM [Targeted Allocation Money], GAM [General Allocation Money], what have you, which allows us to have more of those players at that mid-level salary.
“And so for me, what we get a chance to do is we keep adding more quality players and more numbers of quality players maybe in comparison to other teams. Where they might spend a boatload on their three DPs. In doing that, they don’t have as much of the other monies to fill out the rest of their roster.”
Whether you’re a veteran observer of MLS or are still new to the league’s unique ways, the entire piece is well worth a read.