In his role as Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director, Peter Vermes wears many hats. He coaches the first team on a daily basis. He scouts prospective newcomers from abroad. He makes pivotal roster decisions in tandem with his technical staff. He interacts with media several times a week.
He also keeps a close eye on the youth pipeline that Sporting has carefully and meticulously constructed over the last several years. Look no further than the fact that Sporting has 12 Homegrown Players on its roster, the most in MLS.
In an illuminating discussion with club commentator Nate Bukaty on Sports Radio 810 WHB this morning, Vermes opened up on the importance of cultivating the professional player pathway at Sporting. With the 2021 MLS season starting six weeks later than normal, Vermes had more time than normal during the first quarter of the year to evaluate players from the U-19 level all the way down to the U-9 age group.
That’s right, Vermes and his technical staff begin assessing talent among the 8-year-olds competing at places like Swope Soccer Village and Compass Minerals Sporting Fields. Every detail matters and no stone can go unturned, Vermes says, because the Sporting KC Academy is the very lifeblood of the club.
“I have to be clear about what our pathway looks like. If I’m clear about it, everyone is aligned to (the plan). Then everyone can go out and focus on what their job is in getting that accomplished,” Vermes said. “I was able to do a lot of that in this first quarter of the year that I don’t normally get to do.”
Vermes explained that his primary objective among the U-9 through U-14 age groups is to identify premier talent. In the upper levels of the Sporting KC Academy at U-15 through U-19, the goal becomes developing those players into the best versions of themselves individually.
The next important step, where Sporting Kansas City II head coach Paulo Nagamura plays an integral role, is taking that individual talent and molding it into a team that can play well together and with a well-defined identity.
The only objective for the first team in Major League Soccer, of course, is to win.
Vermes’ full interview with Bukaty above is well worth the listen, serving as an appetizing table setter for Friday’s highly anticipated home opener against Orlando City SC at 6:30 p.m. CT. The sold-out showdown will be televised nationally on FS1, FOX Deports and the FOX Sports app, while Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM will provide local radio broadcasts.