2013 was a banner year for Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler.
After earning an invite to the U.S. Men's National Team January camp, Besler quickly excelled on the national stage became a fixture for Jurgen Klinsmann's squad during the successful World Cup qualifying campaign. In July, Besler started alongside teammate Aurelien Collin for the MLS All-Stars against AS Roma at Sporting Park. In December, Besler was named MLS Best XI, won the MLS Cup and capped off the year by marrying his long-time girlfriend.
Fast forward to 2014 and the 27-year-old defender was named captain of his hometown club, started all four matches for the USMNT at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and subsequently signed a Designated Player contract to keep him with Sporting Kansas City through 2018.
Besler's accomplishments have not gone unnoticed on a national scale. Goal.com, one of the leading soccer-specific websites in the world, announced on Monday that the Sporting Kansas City center back came in at No. 46 on their Goal 50, an annual award that recognizes and ranks the world's 50 best players from the past season.
Besler is one of two MLS players on the list, alongside New York Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill who came in at No. 50 after scoring seven goals in 22 appearances for the New York Red Bulls as well as six goals in eight apperances for Australia. The Sporting KC captain is also the only USMNT player to feature on the list.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo tops the list with Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich) and Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) rounding out the top 5.
The results are in and MLSsoccer.com readers resoundingly voted for tomorrow's #TORvSKC match-up as the MLS Stream of the Week (6 p.m. CT live on KMCI 38 the Spot and SKCTV). Sporting KC takes a four-game road winning streak into BMO Field to face Toronto FC, who boasts the second-highest attendance average in Major League Soccer this season.
In the previous meeting between the two Eastern Conference contenders, Dom Dwyer (14g, 0a) scored twice in a 2-2 draw at Sporting Park in May. His English counterpart Jermain Defoe (11g, 2a) will miss Saturday's rematch due to caution accumulation and, in his place, Toronto FC could turn to former MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario. A six-time member of the MLS Best XI, De Rosario ranks sixth on Major League Soccer's all-time goal scoring chart with 103 goals.
Check out the video below from MLSsoccer.com's Nick Firchau and Matt Doyle for their thoughts on the major storylines to watch...
In 2009, the International Olympic Committee voted to include seven-a-side rugby, also known as Sevens Rugby, as an Olympic sport. With the sport debuting in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and rugby becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, the Kansas City Blues Rugby Club and Sporting Club Network partnered to start the Sporting Club Rugby Sevens Academy to work as a feeder system for the U.S. National Olympic Rugby Sevens team. As part of USA Rugby, these teams from KC Blues and Sporting Club Rugby Sevens Academy have been able to compete in tournaments around the Midwest against other professional Sevens Rugby teams.
The Kansas City Blues Rugby Club is part of the new Frontier Sevens Region of USA Rugby. The Frontier Region has three major tournaments for their qualifiers for the Sevens Club Nationals. The first of the three qualifiers this year was the Denver Sevens in Colorado on June 21st. The tournament was made up of six divisions, including 69 teams from around the Midwest, of which Kansas City Blues and Sporting Club had four teams in three divisions. The KC Blues Premier squad was in the Men’s Qualifier Division and placed third behind Denver and Glendale, while the KC Blues Reserve team played in the Men’s Social Division (finishing 7th) and Sporting Club Rugby Sevens Academy had two teams in the Collegiate Men’s Division. Sporting Club’s White team won the division by beating Colorado State University in comeback fashion with a final score of 26-12, while the Sporting Club Blue team suffered a narrow defeat in the to Air Force in the third place game.
In the most recent Sevens Rugby tournament on Saturday, July 12th, the KC Blues hosted the Heartland 7’s Qualifier. The event included 26 teams throughout three divisions, which were all won by KC Blues or Sporting Club teams. The Blues Premier squad beat Glendale Raptors 31-12 to take the Qualifiers Championship and move atop the qualifier standings with eight points. Meanwhile in the Men’s Open Division, the KC Blues Reserve side managed to pull out a close win over Sporting Club 7’s Rugby Collegiate Academy, a team made up of players from universities around the Greater Kansas City Area. In the High School Division, Sporting Club Sevens Rugby High School Academy outscored Cougars RFC 41-15 in the championship game to win the tournament.
The success from each of these teams has KC Blues and Sporting Club excited for a bright future in Sevens Rugby going into the last two years of Olympic qualifiers. For more information on the Kansas City Blues upcoming tournaments, click here. Also, don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on all things Sporting Club Network.
After leading his club to a 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy, Besler took to the airwaves on Monday to discuss his decision to re-sign with Sporting KC.
First, he went in-studio with Sports Radio 810's Nate Bukaty. Bukaty and Besler discussed Saturday's events, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and what lies ahead for Sporting KC
In the afternoon, Besler joined 610 Sports Radio's Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison on The Drive. Besler discussed the rationale behind re-signing with Sporting KC, the growth of Sporting KC and the future of the U.S. Men's National Team.
Besler then capped off a busy few days by writing a letter to Kansas City fans that will run in the Kansas City Star. Click here to read the letter.
It's been a busy few weeks for Sporting KC's Graham Zusi. After starring for the U.S. Men's National Team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Zusi returned to Kansas City and picked up where he left off, helping Sporting KC to first place in the Eastern Conference while earning MLS All-Star honors and a new contract along the way.
Now, Zusi will be taking to the Twitterverse to answering your burning questions. The 27-year-old will host a Twitter Takeover on Tuesday at 12 p.m. CT on the Sporting KC Twitter account. Zusi will be talking about his experience with the USMNT in Brazil, signing a new contract with Sporting KC as well as the latest in adidas footwear, the Predator Instinct.
To submit a question for Graham, use #AskZusi.
Cast your vote below for the Man of the Match from Sporting Kansas City's 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy on Saturday at Sporting Park. Voting is open through Sunday evening.
It's been less than three weeks since Sporting KC defender Matt Besler and Graham Zusi returned to the United States, following the USMNT's successful run at the World Cup that saw them advance out of the "Group of Death" into the Round of 16.
Upon returning to the States, Besler flew directly to New York to do a series of TV/radio interviews that included SportsCenter, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning. Zusi returned to Kansas City and came off the bench in Sporting KC's 1-1 draw vs. the Chicago Fire before starting a 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact the following weekend. Besler joined Zusi for the match against Montreal and capped off a six-point road trip with a start in Sporting KC's 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew last Wednesday.
MLS Insider, a collaboration between Major League Soccer and the emmy-award winning Hock Films, chronicled Besler and Zusi's return to the States - and to Sporting KC - along with their USMNT teammates across MLS.