Kan Sporting Pull Through?By: Ben | June 9th, 2011
Most teams with one win, six losses, and three ties since the season began would probably feel like they have nothing to look forward to. But while Sporting Kansas City may have such a record, they sure do have a lot to play for, as tonight the true test of their rebranding will begin with the opening of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. Tonight the beautiful game will open its new home in Kansas City, and the question of whether the people respond is a crucial one.
Historically speaking, the Kansas City area hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of soccer fandom. Attendance has consistently hovered around 10-11K, and has only gone above that for four of the seasons between ‘96 and ‘09. But who could blame the locals; their franchise hasn’t exactly been dominant on the pitch. Sporting (and their pre-rebranding predecessor, the Wizards) only qualified for the playoffs twice in the past five years, and now stands at last place in the east with a four point drift between the next worse club (Chicago). Overall, it hasn’t been pretty on the pitch or in the stands for the KC franchise.
The club’s brass, of course, weren’t so happy to accept that, and looked to turn things around at the beginning of this season with rebranding toward a more “European style” name and logo. Having traded in the title Wizards for Sporting, the team then looked to trade in Arrowhead Statium, the 81K-seating home of the Kansas City Cheifs, into something a bit more cozy. Tonight that end of the deal will be completed as the team celebrates the opening of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, a soccer specific stadium built for a much more suitable 18k.
Still, while it isn’t quite (or nearly) as big as the stadium it replaced, LSP is absolutely gorgeous. Honestly, tomorrow I’m going to be at Red Bull Arena, and while I still call The Fortress home, it sure aint the only pretty SSS in town anymore. Check it out for yourself on youtube and flickr (Thanks to Ramsey Mohsen for these).
But the real question here is whether or not KC will succeed. It doesn’t seem like the club’s set the bar too high; they built the stadium to hold not even 19K at the most. And it may not even be their fault. Kansas City might just not have the right population for interest in soccer (and I don’t even mean demographically in terms of Hispanics, which have statistically provided a huge amount of support to MLS and to whom we all owe a great debt). The culture of the area may be more single-sport minded towards football, as its local team, the Chiefs, has been successful on the field and is valued by Forbes at $1 billion. Maybe it isn’t just the right formula.
So while I’m definitely no genie, and I’m definitely not always right, I don’t have such high hopes for Kansas City. I surely don’t mean to undermine the dedicated fans of Sporting, and I completely respect The Cauldron, but there just doesn’t seem to be too much interest in soccer in the area. And it isn’t looking like the club could turn that around: they’re in dead last and just don’t have the roster power to do much to change that. They may beat Chicago tonight, but they won’t be able to keep it up. Let’s be honest.
But I’m kind of getting mean. Look, I have nothing against Kansas City, and I honestly hope they prove me wrong.
What do you think?