In a city that’s as passionate about sports as Kansas City, it only makes sense that Kansas Citians have embraced a rapidly growing soccer culture that’s becoming an integral part of the local sports scene.
It might seem as if soccer is a relatively new addition to Kansas City’s sports lineup, albeit one that’s on an explosive growth track thanks, in large part, to the success of local MLS team Sporting Kansas City (formerly the Kansas City Wizards), the 2013 MLS Cup Champions. Yet Kansas City has a rich, if somewhat unknown, soccer history that spans the last four decades, starting with a 1968 exhibition match at Municipal Stadium between Pele and the North American Soccer League’s Kansas City Spurs.
These days, masses of chanting, singing and scarf-wearing fans pack the picturesque Children's Mercy Park, often aligning with and participating in superfan groups like The Cauldron. And although there’s no doubt that Sporting Kansas City is the center of the local soccer scene, there are a number of other reasons—including teams like the MISL Comets and FC Kansas City, not to mention state-of-the-art facilities—that have all made an integral contribution to the city’s designation as the Soccer Capital of America. Lace up your cleats, grab your team scarf and let’s take a look at some of the local soccer highlights:
KC: The Host With The Most
When it comes to hosting a large-scale sporting event, Kansas City has no problem rolling out the red carpet. Last year, scores of soccer fans descended on the city for the MLS All-Star Game, a fierce competition between the MLS All-Stars and AS Roma. Prior to the game, soccer fans had an opportunity to explore the city while participating in fan-centric events that included an all-star jersey tour and outdoor concerts featuring superstars like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
The fast-paced soccer action continues later this year when the top eight women’s teams in the Big 12 Conference return to Swope Soccer Village for the Big 12 Soccer Championship in November. Craving even more high-stakes soccer? The NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships also return to Swope Soccer Village on Dec. 5-6.
Kansas City’s soccer culture would be nothing without its soccer teams—and we’re fortunate to have several. The Comets, part of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), play their home games at the Independence Events Center. Although the Comets recently returned to the local soccer scene, their history dates back to the 1981-82 season when the Comets joined the original MISL. Not only are the Comets back in action—they’re also the 2014 MISL Champions after defeating the Baltimore Blast in game three of the series.
The Missouri Comets play at the Independence Events Center.
The National Women’s Soccer League’s FC Kansas City is continuing an impressive streak that started with the team’s debut in 2013. The current roster includes the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year (Nicole Barnhart), Defender of the Year (Becky Sauerbrunn), Rookie of the Year (Erika Tymrak) and Most Valuable Player (Lauren Holiday). The team plays at the Stanley H. Durwood Soccer Stadium & Recreational Field, a $9 million facility that’s part of the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus.
State-of-the-art fields and fully equipped facilities don’t just give local teams an optimal place to play—they help attract teams and competitions from around the country, too.
The sprawling Overland Park Soccer Complex encompasses 96 acres with 12 lighted, regulation-size synthetic turf fields that include a built-in turf cooling system. Named the top soccer facility in the U.S. by Livability, the soccer complex also includes tournament storage area, a referee lounge, free WiFi, ample parking and office and meeting space.
Swope Soccer Village
On the other side of the Kansas City metro area, Swope Soccer Village serves as Sporting Kansas City’s training center and is a product between what Sporting Kansas City calls “a unique public-private partnership between the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department and Sporting Club, the parent organization of Sporting Kansas City.” The facility, which was built in just four months, includes 7,800 square feet of space and three soccer fields. Facility amenities include a spacious locker room and lounge, treatment and hydrotherapy areas, a cardio and weight training room and equipment and laundry facilities. The highlight of Swope Soccer Village is a natural grass championship field that seats 1,500, part of a $13.44 million expansion to improve and update the facility.
And there you have it—a glimpse into the teams, facilities and events that have combined to make Kansas City the soccer capital of America. Soccer fans, we’re waiting for you!