Both came to the Kansas City Wizards in 2009 as part of the same MLS SuperDraft class, and the two friends – now veteran MLSers and US internationals – have become synonymous with a club that's had year after year of success since becoming Sporting Kansas City in 2011.
Besler has won six trophies between club and country, Zusi five, the latest for both coming earlier this year when Sporting lifted their third Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in six years. They're about to go after another piece of silverware (albeit facing an uphill battle with yet another away match in the Knockout Round) when Sporting head to Houston on Thursday night to open the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs (8:30 pm CT; FOX Sports Kansas City, UniMas in the US | TSN4, TVAS in Canada | MLS LIVE Free Stream).
Both players are in their 30s now, though, closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. Does that make the clock tick a little louder, on the eve of Sporting's seventh straight postseason appearance?
That depends on which of the two you ask.
“The clock is always ticking,” Besler, Sporting’s captain since 2014, told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “That's why it's important to take advantage of the opportunities that you get. With age, that's why we do our best to emphasize taking advantage of certain moments. We talked all week long, leading up to the Open Cup final, about how these games don't come up every year, and you have to take advantage of them, because you never know when the next one is going to happen.
“It's the same thing with this game. Don't ever take for granted that you're going to make the playoffs, because not every team makes it. Not every team has the opportunity that you have – and also, this team's going to be different next year. It's different every year.”
But Zusi, who has made a successful move from the wing to right back this year for both Sporting and the US national team, said he feels no extra pressure from the weight of advancing years.
“It doesn't matter what point in my career I'm at,” he told reporters. “I'm always going to want to win. It's not like, 'Oh, shoot, I'm getting to the end now and now I want to start winning games and trophies. That's been the goal from the beginning.
“I guess, yeah, you want to win as much as possible, because soccer's not a forever sport. So I guess, in part, that's correct. But to win trophies has always been my goal.”