Few might have predicted it at the time, but 2009 was a fateful year for Sporting Kansas City.
A dozen years ago, well before the club's momentous rebrand and move into Children's Mercy Park, Kansas City selected Graham Zusi and Matt Besler in the MLS SuperDraft. Months later, the club appointed Peter Vermes—its technical director since late 2006—as manager.
Fast-forwarding to now, all three have become living legends at Sporting. Besler departed this offseason for expansion side Austin FC, while Zusi and Vermes are back for season No. 13 in Kansas City.
That brings us to a landmark worth recognizing as the 2021 MLS regular season approaches. Sporting Kansas City is home not only to the longest-tenured manager in MLS—Vermes has held that title since the end of 2016—but also the league’s longest-tenured active player with a single club.
Let’s start with Vermes. His 13-year reign as Sporting’s manager dwarfs that of every other coach in MLS. The Philadelphia Union’s Jim Curtin places second in terms of active head coaching tenure, having held his role since 2014. Remarkably enough, only six MLS managers—Vermes, Curtin, Brian Schmetzer, Adrian Heath, Bob Bradley and Giovanni Savarese—have held their respective posts since 2018 or earlier.
LONGEST-TENURED HEAD COACHES IN MLS
(as of Feb. 27, 2021)
|Peter Vermes||Sporting Kansas City||2009|
|Jim Curtin||Philadelphia Union||2014|
|Brian Schmetzer||Seattle Sounders FC||2016|
|Adrian Heath||Minnesota United FC||2017|
|Giovanni Savarese||Portland Timbers||2018|
Zusi, meanwhile, has become the first player in Sporting history to spend 13 seasons with the club. He is also the league’s longest-tenured active player with one team. Zusi signed an MLS contract with Kansas City ahead of the 2009 season, which places him narrowly ahead of San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, who began his current tenure with the team in June 2009.
LONGEST-TENURED PLAYERS WITH ONE CLUB IN MLS
(as of Feb. 27, 2021)
|Graham Zusi||Sporting Kansas City||2009|
|Chris Wondolowski||San Jose Earthquakes||2009|
|Russell Teibert||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||2011|
|Diego Chara||Portland Timbers||2011|
|Shea Salinas||San Jose Earthquakes||2012|
|Ray Gaddis||Philadelphia Union||2012|
|Ryan Meara||New York Red Bulls||2012|
|Boniek Garcia||Houston Dynamo||2012|
During their heralded run together, Vermes and Zusi have helped Sporting win four major championships—the 2013 MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups in 2012, 2015 and 2017—and reach the MLS Cup Playoffs on nine occasions. They’ve been individually recognized, as well, with Vermes earning 2018 MLS Sporting Executive of the Year accolades and Zusi racking up a club-record seven MLS All-Star nods as well as two MLS Best XI selections.
In an interview with Sports Radio 810 WHB earlier this week, Zusi said he hopes to be on the field training with Sporting in mid to late April. The defender suffered a serious foot injury last October and underwent successful surgery prior to beginning rehab in late 2020.
Sporting will kick off their 26th season as a charter member of MLS on the weekend of April 17. The 2021 MLS regular season schedule will be unveiled in the coming weeks.