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Soccer Culture

06 August 11:46 am
July 19th marked the third annual Sporting Club Network Reception and Kevin Gray Awards Ceremony as the achievements of various players, coaches and those dedicated to the growth of the game were recognized. One hundred and twenty-three members were in attendance, representing 33 Sporting Club Network Academy Affiliates and Member Clubs from five different states -- a display of Sporting Club Network’s far-reaching effort to bring players, coaches and communities into the Sporting Club family.
 
Established in 2012, Sporting Club Network aims to create a more personal relationship between its members, their local communities, Sporting Kansas City and its parent company, Sporting Club. Athletes, coaches and families within the Sporting Club Network are provided with exclusive opportunities to interact with members of Sporting Kansas City’s senior team, receive coaching and education instruction from the senior team technical staff, and be recognized at Sporting Park for their efforts to expand the game in their locality.
 
The end of the year reception gives Sporting Club Network members the opportunity to meet fellow members, exchange ideas and reflect on the many on-and-off-the field accomplishments achieved throughout the year. In conjunction with the annual reception, Sporting Club Network hosts the Kevin Gray Awards.

The Kevin Gray awards, presented by Pepsi, were established in honor of the late Kansas City Sports Commission President. Kevin’s passion for the game and his desire to see it grow in the Kansas City area are exemplified in the winners of his namesake. The Kevin Gray Player of the Year Award recognizes youth, as well as adult, players for their outstanding performance on the field. The Kevin Gray Coach of the Year Award is given to a Kansas City coach who has led his or her team to remarkable success. The final award, Soccer Ambassador of the Year, is presented to an individual whose commitment to the game and tireless effort in support of its growth reflects the ideals that the Sports Commissioner Gray embodied.
 
The Kevin Gray Awards, co-sponsored by Sporting Kansas City and Global Sports International, bestowed the following awards, as decided by a panel of soccer leaders in Kansas City:
  • Male Youth Player of the Year – Jo Jo Piatczyc
  • Female Youth Player of the Year – Cristina DeZeeuw
  • Adult Player of the Year – Seth Sinovic
  • Coach of the Year – Peter Vermes
  • Soccer Ambassador of the Year – Robb Heineman
This year's awards ceremony, hosted at Sporting Park, preceded Sporting Kansas City's game against the LA Galaxy and was broadcast on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel the following evening. Former club captain Diego Gutierrez emceed the event and moved the crowed as he reflected on the growth of the game in Kansas City and the abundance of opportunity youth players now have, thanks in part to the work of Sporting Kansas City and the Sporting Club Network.
 
Gutierrez has a special connection to the club and the Kansas City area. He was a graduate of Blue Springs High School and was a two-time NSCAA All-American at Rockhurst University before joining the club in Major League Soccer’s inaugural season in 1996. He would go on to win the MLS Cup in 1998, four U.S. Open Cup championships and record 40 career playoff appearances (third most in MLS history).
 
At the conclusion of the reception, guests enjoyed the game and took in the electric atmosphere as they watched Sporting KC go on to beat the Galaxy by a 2-1 scoreline. The award winners, however, were given a truly unique experience as they were escorted onto the field and recognized for their achievements at halftime.
 
Thank you to all of our network members and guests for making this year's Sporting Club Network Reception and Kevin Gray Awards Ceremony such a memorable experience! To stay up-to-date on upcoming events and for all things Sporting Club Network, be sure to follow on Twitter and like the SCN on Facebook.
05 August 2:21 pm

On Saturday afternoon, several Sporting KC players joined NAPA KC and The National Guard to host a barbecue and soccer clinic for local military families affected by injuries obtained during service for our country.

The idea for the gathering was originally proposed by Sporting KC defender Kevin Ellis, who has strong family ties to the United States military. Ellis was joined by teammates Matt Besler, Mikey Lopez, Andy Gruenebaum and Graham Zusi for a pick-up game of soccer with the families before enjoying barbecue and ice cream at the Swope Soccer Village. At the end of the event, each of the families received a signed soccer ball from the players.

"It takes a special person to do what they do and I can't put into words the respect I have for these guys," said Ellis, a Kansas City native who has made 14 MLS appearances for the club this season.

05 August 12:45 pm

Without a few of the team's top players on the eve of the 2014 MLS All-Star Game, Sporting Kansas City welcomed a star from another sport to their training session on Tuesday at the Swope Soccer Village. NASCAR driver Joey Logano paid a visit to the MLS Cup champions while in Kansas City for a media tour to promote the Hollywood Casino 400 race weekend at Kansas Speedway from Oct. 3-5.

Logano led the first 30 laps and finished third on Sunday in the GoBowling.com 400. His eighth top-five finish of the year moved the 24-year-old up to eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings and he is one of only seven drivers to have clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with five races remaining until the field is set.

For all the sights and sounds from Tuesday's training, check out the video above and photo slideshow below. Plus, click here to see the social media chatter captured from the festivities.

18 July 11:07 am

The final installment of our Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight features the pride of Kansas City, Matt Besler. Besler's standout performances on and off the field make him the perfect candidate for a Kevin Gray Award. Drafted by Kansas City in 2009, Besler hit the ground running and saw a steady rise in form until 2011, when his career took off after being named 2011 Kevin Gray Awards Adult Player of the Year, presented by Pepsi.

"It's a great honor and one that I felt a lot of pride in accepting," Besler said of receiving the award. "Kansas City has always been a place that has many talented athletes. I'm grateful to be amongst such great company with the previous Kevin Gray Award winners."

Since winning his first Kevin Gray Award in 2011 and second in 2013, Besler has thrived in both domestic and international competition. Here are some highlights from his ever-growing list of accomplishments:

USMNT:

  • Debuted for the US Men’s National Team on Jan. 29, 2013
  • Started 20 games out of 21 games played for USMNT
  • Totaled 1,683 minutes in 2013 and 2014
  • Started all four games at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, totaling 345 minutes, and is the first player from the state of Kansas to play in a World Cup

2014 MLS

  • Captain of Sporting Kansas City
  • 2014 Kansas City Sportsman of the Year

2013 MLS

  • MLS All-Star Selection
  • Sporting Kansas City Defensive Player of the Year
  • Selection to the MLS Best XI
  • Helped the defensive unit earn 13 shutouts

2012 MLS

  • MLS Defender of the Year
  • MLS Breakout Player of the Year
  • Selection to the MLS Best XI
  • Sporting Kansas City Defensive Player of the Year
  • Registered two game-winning assists
  • Converted PK to help Sporting Kansas City win the U. S. Open Cup

2011 MLS

  • MLS All-Star Selection

Besler's impressive accolades leave no room for doubt of his superiority on the field. However, something that not everyone knows about the Overland Park, Kansas native is the strength of his passion for giving back to the community. Besler spends countless hours of his time making guest appearances at Sporting Club Network events throughout the year, as well as events for programs like the Victory Project.

"Two of my favorite opportunities to give back to the community are participating in youth clinics around the Kansas City area and also visiting with kids in local hospitals during their treatments and recoveries," Besler said. "The Kansas City community has embraced our team and it's always rewarding for us to be able to return the support."

Besler offers the perfect triple threat: a hometown hero, a champion on the field and in the community, and an inspiration to young soccer players in the Kansas City area. We hope that the excitement Besler has brought to the Soccer Capital of America will rise just as exponentially as his soccer career has since being named Kevin Gray Awards Adult Player of the Year.

For all things Sporting Club Network, be sure to follow us on twitter, @SportingKC_SCN, and like us on Facebook!

15 July 11:33 am

Jaycie Johnson, winner of the 2013 Kevin Gray Awards Youth Female Player of the Year, made sure to continue to build on her successes from high school soccer almost immediately. She began doing this just months after winning the prestigious award by bursting on the scene at the University of Nebraska women’s soccer program, and followed up by putting on one of the greatest single season performances that the Huskers have ever seen. 

In the summer of 2013, Jaycie was named Kevin Gray Awards Youth Female Player of the Year. The Kevin Gray Awards, presented by Pepsi, are given in remembrance of the late Kansas City Sports Commissioner, and recognize the top players, coaches, and ambassadors in the KC soccer community over the past year. On being named Kevin Gray Awards Female Player of the Year, Jacyie said, “It meant the world to me getting honored with this award... It has made me work so much harder towards soccer and my training just to make him proud.”

And work hard she did. At the start of her college career, Jaycie was ranked as the No. 42 Forward in the country, and the No. 4 Forward in the Heartland Region. These rankings certainly proved to be accurate, if not an understatement of the simply extraordinary talent that Jaycie possesses. Just six weeks after Jaycie was honored during half time at a Sporting KC game for earning the title of Kevin Gray Awards Youth Female Player of the Year, Jaycie was leaping in to the arms of her teammates in celebration of scoring the first goal of her college career. This would become a familiar sight during the 2013 Fall season, as Jaycie netted a whopping 17 goals in all competitions, including 7 game winners. Check out some of her video highlights here.

There certainly is no shortage of statistics for the prolific Jaycie Johnson, here are a few of her most notable accomplishments from just her freshman year:

  • 2013 All-Big Ten Second Team
  • 2013 All-Big Ten Freshman Team - Unanimous Selection
  • 2013 Big Ten All-Tournament Team
  • 2013 Big Ten Tournament - Offensive Player of the Tournament
  • Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week (Aug.26)
  • 3X Big Ten Freshman of the Week (Aug. 26,Sept. 23,Oct. 28)
  • 2013 TopDrawerSoccer.com Best XI - First Team Freshman
  • 2013 Soccer America All-Freshman First Team
  • First freshman in NCAA Tournament history to score four goals in a match
  • First freshman at Nebraska to score four goals in a match

Big 10 defenders beware, the freshman phenom now has a year of experience under her belt. With 17 goals in her first college season, we can only expect that Jaycie Johnson, 2013 Kevin Gray Awards Female Player of the Year, will continue her spectacular run of form and impress upon the nation the superior kind of talent that soccer players from Kansas City can produce.

Check back in on Wednesday to read about our next Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight: former Sporting KC Academy player, Derek Schrick. And for all things Sporting Club Network, be sure to follow us on twitter, @SportingKC_SCN, and like us on Facebook!

01 July 2:09 pm

Created with flickr slideshow.

When a five year old is asked what they want for their birthday, they are usually very anxious and eager to answer with his or her wish list. Perhaps stating the newest iPad or some action figures, or something else they can play with. But for Brody Davis, his sixth birthday would be different.
 
His birthday party was at the Kansas City Police Academy on Saturday, where he had a wonderful time with his friends and family. But instead of receiving gifts he had asked for, Brody told his guests to bring new soccer items so they could donate to kids in need. This generous and caring six year old was willing to take the focus off himself and highlight those in need.
 
Once Brody’s mother, Sherri Davis, learned of this selfless act she contacted Sporting KC’s foundation - The Victory Project. The plan is to distribute the donated items this fall at the next Recycle Your Game event, which aims to donate soccer items to disadvantaged youth in Kansas City.
 
As avid Sporting KC fans and current Season Ticket Members, the Davis family is no stranger to the organization. Little Brody has been able to experience the club and has grown to admire Graham Zusi as his role model. Brody also had the opportunity to give Graham his MLS Cup ring at a ceremony held in Sporting Park this May, after his mom won a fan contest.
 
Brody is a testament to the fact that there is no age limit to generosity and kindness, showing us that all can start a movement to impact the lives of others. The old saying “big things come in small packages” exemplifies this little boy and his enormous heart for others.
 
For those interested in hosting their own Victory Project or who want to learn more about the movement, please visit VictoryKC.org or follow on Twitter.

17 June 9:43 am

Thousands of soccer fans packed Kansas City Power & Light on Monday as the United States kicked off its 2014 FIFA World Cup with a 2-1 win over Ghana. The World Cup Watch Party, presented by The Sprint Framily Plan as part of Summer in the Soccer Capital, produced some moments that won't soon be forgotten. Catch them all here.

12 June 1:00 pm
Calling all Sporting Club Network members: do you have World Cup fever? We sure do! And because of that we are hosting a social media contest with some awesome prizes up for grabs, including a chance to win free tickets to Sporting KC vs. Manchester City later this summer.
 
Here’s how it works. Any SCN member who posts a picture on Twitter or Facebook showing off their Sporting Club Network team gear or Sporting KC attire WHILE watching any World Cup game will be entered into our contest.
 
#ForClubAndCountry Contest Rules:
  • Must be following @SportingKC_SCN on Twitter or like the page on Facebook
  • Must tag @SportingKC_SCN in the tweet or post their picture to the Facebook page
  • Must include the hashtag #ForClubAndCountry in the social media post
  • Must include a picture of an SCN member watching a World Cup game, while wearing their SCN team gear or Sporting KC attire.
We will be picking three winners with the most creative pictures immediately after each U.S. Men’s National Team game, as well as the World Cup final on July 13. Each winner will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind “For Club And Country” SKC/USMNT scarf. At the conclusion of the World Cup, one lucky SCN member will win four tickets to the Sporting KC vs. Manchester City match on July 23rd at Sporting Park.
 
#ForClubAndCountry Contest Prizes:
  • For Club And Country limited edition SKC/USMNT Scarves: three (3) to be given away to SCN members after each USMNT game, as well as the World Cup Final
  • GRAND PRIZE – Four (4) match tickets to Sporting KC vs. Manchester City (face value of $60/each) at Sporting Park on July 23rd
What are you waiting for? Start following and liking the Sporting Club Network on Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to take a picture showing your support for SKC and the SCN while watching the World Cup during the month ahead!
03 June 3:40 pm
Traditions are a vital and unique part of every sport. Soccer is no different, especially in Kansas City.
 
One of the greatest traditions at Sporting Park is honoring a child who is battling one of life’s challenges by accommodating them in the Victory Suite. The game on May 27 was no different – except for this game not only was a child in the Victory Suite, but a second individual was honored as well by fulfilling his wish to be a member of the KC Cauldron.
 
The largest supporters group for the team, the Cauldron is over 2,000 members strong and is the loudest section in the stadium. The fans stand throughout the game and spend 90 minutes shouting cheers and chants to keep the team’s spirits up and welcoming opponents into "The Blue Hell."
 
Enter Ryan Robinson, a student at Olathe South High School. He has a passion for sports and hopes to gain the skills in college to someday become a sports commentator.  
 
Ryan mentioned his dream of becoming a member of the KC Cauldron during the KC Parks and Recreation Abilities Clinic in April. His eyes lit up when he spoke about how amazing it would be to be a part of the family and he began watching all the YouTube videos he could to learn the chants.
 
On gameday, he participated in a pre-game tour of the stadium, took pictures on the team’s benches and spent the game cheering with his fellow fans in the Cauldron.
 
“My desire to be in the Kansas City Cauldron began two years ago after I attended a Sporting Kansas City soccer clinic at Swope Park. Thanks to Brandi's help, I finally was able to achieve my dream and sat right in the middle of the action at the Cauldron. I learned every song, chant and cheer, and made so many friends I lost count. I would like to thank Josh and Zach for meeting me at practice, giving me sweet Sporting gear and helping to make me feel welcome like family. Sitting next to Leo was tons of fun because we cheered on Sporting together. Leading 'I Believe' was a blast and a total honor. Thanks to everyone who made this awesome experience possible! GO SPORTING!!!”
30 May 12:36 pm

Two years ago this month, two of the most successful clubs in Kansas City, Blue Valley Soccer Club and Kansas City Football Club, completed a major merger that saw both clubs’ membership come together to form Sporting Blue Valley. This was the first instance of an Academy Affiliate in the Sporting Club Network taking on the “Sporting” name and for some time it was considered one of the main local feeder clubs for the Sporting KC Academy teams. Times have changed since then with the Academy Affiliate program growing immensely, now including 11 different affiliates across the Midwest, spanning as far as Minneapolis, Minnesota to Nashville, Tennessee.
 
As Sporting KC Academy tryouts returned this May, the influence of these Academy Affiliates was certainly apparent with trialists coming from at least seven different cities and five different states. Among the represented affiliates were Omaha FC, Sporting Wichita Rojos, Sporting StL Rangers, Sporting Nashville Heroes, Sporting Kaw Valley, Sporting Iowa, Sporting Columbia SC, and Sporting Blue Valley, with a number of these players receiving roster or developmental player spots across the four Academy age groups for the 2014-15 season.
 
A major goal of the Sporting Club Network and its Academy Affiliate program is to better scout and develop the youth talent throughout this region in hopes of providing a clear path for these players to strive for a place on the Sporting KC senior team. Seeing growth like this is a testament to this program and hopefully a sign of the club getting closer to having its first Academy Affiliate player starting in a competitive match at Sporting Park.
 
To keep up with the Sporting Club Network and the Academy Affiliate program, be sure to follow on Twitter and like on Facebook.