The road to College Cup officially kicks off later today as 32 of the 48 teams in the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship begin play. But the journey for seven Sporting Kansas City Academy alums has been years in the making since their days on the Swope Soccer Village fields.
Take, for example, University of Denver freshman forward Cole Stevenson. The Leawood, Kansas native and Rockhurst High School graduate has one goal and two assists in 18 appearances this season for the Pioneers, who won their second straight Summit League championship. Stevenson can be seen below as a member of the Kansas City Wizards Juniors during the 2009/10 season - the first in which the club's U16 and U18 squads competed in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
In fact, tomorrow will mark the five-year anniversary of the club's inaugural Development Academy matches. The U16's (1-0) and U18's (3-2) won both games of a doubleheader against Texas Rush at Bear Branch Soccer Complex in Woodlands, Texas.
Games to watch in the NCAA tournament (updated with scores):
- Saint Louis University (Raymond Lee) 2, University of Tulsa 0 | FINAL
- University of North Carolina (Zach Wright, Andy Lopez) 6, James Madison University 0 | FINAL
- Wake Forest University (Heath Honold) 0, University of Maryland, Baltimore County 0 (UMBC advances 3-2 on PK's) | FINAL
- University of Denver (Cole Stevenson) 0, Oregon State University 1 | FINAL
- Fordham University (Matt Lewis) 1, Dartmouth College 2 | FINAL
- Creighton University (Eric DeJulio) vs. Oregon State University | 12:30 p.m. CT on Sunday
For today's Throwback Thursday, we're not throwing it back to a picture, per se, but instead to a series of experiences that current Sporting KC players and coaches have had at tonight's CCL venue.
For many Sporting KC players, tonight's match will be their first in the vaunted Monster's Cave, home of 30-time Costa Rican first division champion Deportivo Saprissa. But it won't be the first trip there for everyone. Sporting KC midfielder Jorge Claros played at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in the 2007 Copa Interclubes UNCAF, while Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes and assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin each featured in matches in the stadium.
Claros' former club Motagua visited Saprissa in the first leg of the 2007 Copa Interclubes UNCAF championship. Motagua drew the match 1-1 in San Jose before earning a 1-0 victory at home to clinch the championship.
Zavagnin was a member of the 2005 Kansas City Wizards team that drew Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup. Saprissa defeated the Wizards 2-1 in AET after drawing Kansas City 0-0 at Arrowhead Stadium a week earlier.
Vermes is the only current member of Sporting KC's organization to have featured* Estadio Ricardo Saprissa as a member of the USMNT. Vermes' side lost to Costa Rica 3-2 in a World Cup qualifier on March 23, 1997. Overall, Costa Rica is 6-0 in World Cup qualifiers played at the Monster's Cave.
*Benny Feilhaber was a member of the 2009 USMNT squad that played against Costa Rica at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in a World Cup qualifier, however, Feilhaber missed the match due to injury.
The U.S. Women's National Team -- ranked No. 1 in the world and in the midst of an 87-game home unbeaten streak -- arrived in Kansas City on Sunday, 10 days before the start of the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship at Sporting Park on Oct. 15. Head coach Jill Ellis named her 20-player roster earlier today for the World Cup qualifying tournament, featuring Lauren Holiday, Becky Sauerbrunn and Amy Rodriguez from reigning NWSL champions FC Kansas City.
Follow @ussoccer_wnt on Twitter for updates throughout their stay in Kansas City and secure your tickets online at Ticketmaster.com for the international doubleheaders on back-to-back nights at Sporting Park.
On Tuesday, Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer and pinch runner Jarrod Dyson were at the center of a thrilling 9-8 victory over the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game at Kauffman Stadium. Hosmer reached base in five of his six at bats, driving in a run and and scoring twice himself -- including the game-tying run in the 12th inning. The game -- the first Royals playoff action since winning the World Series in 1985 -- would not have reached that point if not for Dyson's game-tying run in the 9th inning.
Exactly 100 days earlier, the Royals duo were joined by thousands of soccer supporters cheering on Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and the U.S. Men's National Team at the Kansas City Power & Light District during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. As it turned out, the 2-2 draw against Portugal on June 22 in the Brazilian Amazon featured no shortage of drama itself.
"It's fun because you get to be in the crowd with the same people that cheer you on," Hosmer said. "You feel the energy in the dugout and always looking out at the stands, but to actually be in the stands now and to get to feel the energy with the people out here has been a great experience."
Several Sporting Kansas City players returned the show of support on Tuesday as they were on hand to see the Royals advance to the best-of-five American League Division Series, which begins tonight in Anaheim (8:07 p.m. CT on TBS).
Carlos Bocanegra (right) celebrates scoring at Sporting Park | Photo by Jamie Squire (Getty Images)
No defender in U.S. Men's National Team history scored as many goals as Carlos Bocanegra and he set the record with the final goal of his international career on Oct. 16, 2012 at Sporting Park in a 3-1 victory over Guatemala. The two-time FIFA World Cup veteran announced on Thursday that he will retire at the end of the 2014 MLS season, concluding a 15-year professional career in which he captained the United States in 64 of his 110 appearances.
Bocanegra -- who also captained the United States to a 1-0 win over Guadeloupe at Sporting Park during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup -- spent six seasons in Major League Soccer, beginning his career in Chicago. He earned Rookie of the Year honors and helped the Fire reach the 2000 MLS Cup, where they fell 1-0 to Kansas City at RFK Stadium.
His MLS career saw him make only two appearances in Kansas City with cameos coming in 2002 and 2003 - both seasons in which he was named MLS Defender of the Year. He scored Chicago's lone goal in his KC debut on Aug. 31, 2002 in a 2-1 loss but returned the following year and led Chicago to a 3-2 victory at Arrowhead Stadium on April 26, 2003.
Now 35, Bocanegra captains Chivas USA but has been sidelined since July with concussion symptoms. Sporting KC will take on Chivas USA next Friday, Sept. 12 at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
Friday night's match between Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo will be the 16th competitive match between the two sides since 2011. And while he has only featured five times in that span, Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer has had his share of unforgettable moments.
The 2012 MLS SuperDraft first round pick scored the game-winning goal in the 2013 Eastern Conference Championship, receiving a scoop pass from Benny Feilhaber, dribbling around a defender and placing his shot past goalkeeper Tally Hall.
Dwyer then continued his strong form into 2014, converting a penalty kick and putting in a strong 90-minute shift in Sporting KC's 10-man 2-0 win at Houston on June 6, 2014.
But for today's TBT, we're throwing it back to Dwyer's first match against Houston in 2012. Although this match won't count in the official record books, Dwyer played 90 minutes in a 3-0 MLS Reserve League loss to Houston at Swope Park on March 27, 2012. That Reserve League lineup was also packed with players who have made major contributions to Sporting KC over the past 18 months including: Jon Kempin, Lawrence Olum, Kevin Ellis, Paulo Nagamura and Jacob Peterson.
Want to try your hand at outshining Benny Feilhaber and Sal Zizzo? Here’s your chance! Using the hashtag #AskBenny, show us your best lip-syncing moves on Instagram or Vine as your entry to win two (2) Benny Feilhaber Show shirts. Entries must be submitted by Aug. 31 at 11:59 p.m. CT. Good luck!
Four years ago this month, Jon Kempin became the club's first homegrown player and the youngest signing to that point when he turned pro at age 17.
"This is a great day for our organization," Peter Vermes said at the time. "We had the opportunity to identify a talented player in the area, bring him into the (Academy) program and develop him to the point where we could sign him to a professional contract. Jon has incredible talent and now he has the opportunity to continue his development at a professional level and not have the pressure to perform on the field right away.”
Pressure to perform, like being told at halftime to warmup for your MLS debut and then facing a penalty kick for your first shot on goal faced.
Or lining up across from the League's top paid player, U.S. Men's National Team star Michael Bradley, in your first career MLS start.
Or following that with a 2,000+ mile trek to Central America three days later for a Champions League encounter in Nicaragua.
Kempin aced all three tests since being summoned back from his loan to USL PRO affiliate OKC Energy FC in the aftermath of an injury to starting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg and then stepping into the spotlight when Andy Gruenebaum was sidelined with a strained shoulder. Now 21, Kempin is the youngest goalkeeper to start an MLS match in team history and the youngest at his position to appear in MLS this season.
To quote Kempin on his first day as a professional, "Now is when the fun starts."
Update: Congratulations to Ryan McDonald for submitting the winning caption. Please contact email@example.com to claim your prize.
Sporting Kansas City moved into first place in the race for the Supporters' Shield after defeating Eastern Conference foes Toronto FC 4-1 at Sporting Park last weekend. Needless to say, the boys brought nothing but smiles during postgame interviews with SKCTV commentator Jake Yadrich - especially two of the three goalscorers (Dom Dwyer and C.J. Sapong) and man of the match himself (Jon Kempin) pictured above.
Dwyer opened the scoring on Saturday by converting two first half penalty kicks to move his goal scoring total to 16, second most in MLS this season. Sapong's second half strike moves the Virginia native into a tie for ninth on KC's all-time chart for career goals scored during the regular season with 20 and Sporting KC's record when Sapong scores is now 19-0-2 including the postseason.
Saturday was the first career MLS start for Kempin, who has been nominated for MLS Save of the Week honors for Week 23 after his crucial stop against Gilberto to preserve his team's lead. Kempin already earned the accolade in Week 22 on his MLS debut after stopping a penalty kick attempt by Darren Mattocks.
Submit your best caption to the photo above by 6 p.m. CT on Thursday, August 21 and you'll be entered to win two tickets to Saturday's match against D.C. United and $20 worth of Kansas Lottery instant scratch tickets. Entries for this week's caption contest, brough to you by Kansas Lottery, can be submitted via the comments section below. You must be 18 years of age or older to be eligible for the prize. Good luck!