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Soccer Culture

08 September 1:15 pm
It is the dream of many children to grow up and be a professional athlete. Some get the chance to live out their dream but many don't. The Special Olympics organization gives athletes facing intellectual disabilities the same opportunities in sports their peers have. One way in which the organization does this is through Unified Sports.
 
Special Olympics Unified Sports® is a program that brings together athletes with intellectual disabilities and their peers without intellectual disabilities (called partners) on the same team for training and competition. Age and ability matching of athletes and partners is defined on a sport-by-sport basis.
 
This past weekend Special Olympics Kansas sent a Unified Team comprised of athletes from five local high schools to NYC to take part in an Exchange Game with Special Olympics New Jersey.  Exchange Games are a new initiative from MLS WORKS, the league’s Community Relations arm, and has many MLS teams participating around the league.  Each game features Unified Teams from the local Special Olympics chapters and takes place immediately following the professional game on the field.
 
The Kansas athletes arrived a day before their big game and MLS WORKS and Sporting KC staff had a couple surprises in store.  For many of the athletes it was their first trip to NYC so after checking into the team hotel, the group made their way to Yankee Stadium to watch the Kansas City Royals take on the New York Yankees. Throughout the game, the Royals Network graciously featured live shots of the group which aired back in Kansas City. On Saturday morning, the group visited several iconic New York sights including Times Square, the New York City Public Library and the Empire State Building.
 
 
When game time arrived on Saturday the athletes entered Red Bull Arena and were announced during pregame to the crowd which included over 200 Sporting KC traveling fans. The team watched the first half of play before heading to their locker room which had been pre-set with full team kits in a manner that reflects what their professional counterparts would experience. After exchanging gifts and good luck cards, which is a Special Olympics tradition to encourage good sportsmanship, the teams were announced and the exchange match began. With the support of the ever-present #Roaddron the athletes played their hearts out and were able to experience what it was like to be a professional athlete.
 
Following the match, shortened by bad weather, the players were given a commemorative medal during a ceremony conducted by Marc de Grandpre of the NY Red Bulls.
 
“It is important for games like this to happen so we can spread the word that everyone is equal and it shouldn't matter what disabilities you have because we play as a team,” said partner athlete Dessire Balderas.
 
05 September 10:57 am


Photo courtesy of @LAND3Studio on Twitter

League play begins tonight at Swope Soccer Village as area youth soccer players will step foot on the new fields for the first time since the start of a $15.5 million expansion at the state-of-the-art facility. Over 16,000 boys and girls of all ages will compete at Swope Soccer Village during the Fall 2014 season, representing more than 1,100 teams from nearly 200 clubs.

Mayor Sly James stopped by the nine-field complex (three natural grass, six synthetic turf) at 63rd and Lewis Rd in Kansas City, Missouri on Thursday, sending out a series of tweet with his first impressions.

An official dedication ceremony will be held next Friday, Sept. 12 at 4:30 p.m. CT on the south plaza at Swope Soccer Village. Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo, 5th District Councilman Michael Brooks, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, KC Parks Commissioners and Sporting KC representatives will all be in attendance for the festivities. 

In addition to league competition, Swope Soccer Village's fall schedule is highlighted by several upcoming marquee events:

  • Big 12 Soccer Championship: The postseason tournament returns to KC for a second straight year as the top eight women's soccer teams in the Big 12 conference play in a single-elimination tournament from Nov. 5-9 for an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
  • Youth Soccer Clinic: Hosted by the Kansas City Sports Commission and featuring NWSL champions FC Kansas City, the clinic is free for kids 6-12 and will be held from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8. Registration is required.
  • Presidents Cup & State Cup: The best under-15 thru under-18 girls soccer teams from Missouri and Kansas will play Nov. 8-9 in pursuit of berths to regional competition and with college coaches in attendance for recruiting opportunities.
  • NCAA Division III Soccer Championship: The men's and women's champions of NCAA Division III will be crowned on Dec. 5-6 in the first of four years of NCAA soccer championships coming to Swope Soccer Village.
27 August 12:10 pm

Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi are two of 20 Major League Soccer stars in the running for this year's FIFA 15 custom cover. Fans can choose the World Cup duo to be among the four players that will appear on the downloadable MLS cover and all who cast votes will be entered to win a VIP package for two to MLS Cup 2014.

VOTE NOW: Cast your ballot

Voting is unlimited and runs through Sept. 9. The league's official FIFA 15 custom cover, as well as a Sporting Kansas City custom cover, will be unveiled on the MLS Facebook page on Sept. 19. FIFA 15 hits stores on Sept. 23 in North America and is currently available to pre-order on EASports.com.

   

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.