Saturday, Sporting Kansas City will take the pitch for the 1000th time in club history in all competitions. In 27 seasons and 999 matches, Sporting KC has amassed an impressive record of 411-375-213 along with seven total trophies.
Sporting will host fellow MLS charter club, San Jose Earthquakes in a regular season showdown at Children’s Mercy Park with first kick set for 7:30 p.m. CT on 38 The Spot. In 1996, the Kansas City Wiz defeated the San Jose Clash in a shootout for the club’s first road result ever.
Below is a deep dive into the history of the club As Sporting Kansas City surpasses the millennium milestone on Saturday.
The Beginning - 1996-97
In April 1996, Major League Soccer played its first match, and the Kansas City Wiz played their inaugural competition on April 13, 1996, defeating the Colorado Rapids 3-0 in front of a raucous Arrowhead Stadium crowd.
The ’96 Wiz led by head coach Ron Newman went on to place third in the Western Conference and made a run to Conference Semifinals. It was a historic inaugural season as Sporting Legends honoree Preki tallied 18 regular season goals and 22 total goals, a mark that would stand for 18 seasons.
The Wiz rebranded to the Kansas City Wizards in 1997 and followed up a successful first year with a first-place finish in the MLS regular season. A defeat to the Rapids in the playoffs brought an end to the campaign.
On the cusp of Glory - 1998-99
After finding success in their first two seasons, the Wizards had a pair of down years from 1998-99 in which they posted a combined regular season record of 20-44. They finished sixth in the conference and 11th overall in both seasons.
In 1999, Newman and the Wizards parted ways, promoting Ken Fogarty as the interim head coach before Sporting Legend Bob Gansler took over. Gansler would go on to help define the soccer culture that still exists in the club today.
The Gansler Era - 2000-2006
A new millennium came and with it, a new era of MLS soccer in Kansas City. The Wizards started off the 2000 regular season red hot, earning results in their first 12 matches of the season. The team carried that hot start all the way to the 2000 Supporters’ Shield.
Not satisfied with just one trophy, the Wizards set their sights on the MLS Cup, defeating the Rapids and Galaxy to earn a spot in their first-ever cup final. At RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., KC took on the Chicago Fire in front of nearly 40,000 fans with the MLS Cup on the line.
An 11th-minute goal scored by Miklos Molnar, assisted by Sporting Legend Chris Klein, was the only scoring of the match as the Wizards held on to win 1-0 and claim the crown.
The year 2001 saw the Wizards make their international debut, competing in the final rendition of Copa Merconorte. Kansas City was eliminated from the competition in the group stages after competing in six matches. The team would only reach the Open Cup Round of 16 and MLS Cup quarterfinals.
A year later, the Wizards entered the Concacaf Champions Cup thanks to their two titles in the year 2000. The team defeated W Connection out of Trinidad and Tobago and Liga MX side Santos Laguna before being eliminated in the semifinals by Atletico Morelia. The Open Cup produced a similar result with KC losing in the semifinals to Columbus Crew in extra time.
Kansas City finished second in MLS in 2004 before being knocked out of the playoffs by Saturday’s opponent in the conference semifinals. 2004 would prove a different story in the historic competition.
In their eight years of existence, the Wizards had only made it as far as the semifinals in America’s longest-running soccer competition. Following wins over the Atlanta Silverbacks, Dallas Burn and San Jose Earthquakes, KC found themselves in the finals against the Chicago Fire. Kansas City won 1-0 to lift their third trophy in the team’s brief history thanks to an Igor Simutenkov golden goal in the 95th minute.
The Wizards missed out on their second Supporters’ Shield due to the goals-scored tiebreaker after finishing even on points with Columbus. They then toppled San Jose and LA in the playoffs before slipping to a 3-2 defeat to D.C. in the MLS Cup Finals.
The Gansler era ended with back-to-back playoff misses in 2005 and 2006. Current Sporting Kansas City Director of Player Personnel Brian Bliss took over as interim head coach in 2006 before Curt Onalfo became the full-time manager in 2007.
The Onalfo Era - 2007-2009
Onalfo was at the helm in 2007 and saw the Wizards move from Arrowhead Stadium to Community America Ballpark across the street from where Children’s Mercy Park stands today. In the final full season at Arrowhead, KC snuck into the playoffs, made a run to the semifinals and was bested by the Houston Dynamo.
2008 gave the Wizards their first season at Community America and two quarterfinals appearances, one in the MLS Cup Playoffs and the other in the Open Cup. That season was the final year in club history without Peter Vermes in charge.
The 2009 campaign opened with Onalfo leading the way and the roster adding two rookies, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi. Midway through the season, the club competed in the North American SuperLiga, picking up draws against F.C. Atlas and the New England Revolution before bowing out in the group stage following a defeat to Santos Laguna.
Vermes took charge of the club on Aug. 4, 2009, and earned his first win on Sept. 5 in a 4-2 triumph over New England. The Sporting KC Manager and Sporting Director has been in charge since then and helped Sporting to 10 playoff qualifications in the past 11 seasons.
Rebrand and Stadium - 2010-2011
The new decade brought new stadium promises as the club broke ground on Children’s Mercy Park on Jan. 20, 2010. In the final season as the Wizards, KC climbed the conference, finishing third with an 11-13-6 record. Although it does not count as one of the 1000 matches, the Wizards defeated Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in front of a record-setting 52,424 fans at Arrowhead Stadium on July 25.
The biggest year in club history came in 2011 as the team opened their new state-of-the-art stadium after an ambitious rebrand of the club, officially changing the name to Sporting Kansas City on Nov. 17, 2010.
World-class Children’s Mercy Park opened its doors on June 9, 2011, for a 0-0 draw between Sporting and the Fire. Two matches later, the venue saw its first win in the form of a 1-0 Sporting surpass of San Jose.
Children’s Mercy Park was the backdrop for two playoff matches in 2011 with Sporting advancing past Colorado before slipping to a 2-0 defeat to Houston. The following year launched one of the most successful runs of soccer in MLS history.
The Trophy Era - 2012-2017
Sporting’s 2012 season marks the beginning of a trophy run matched only by one other team in the league. Sporting’s four domestic trophies are tied with Seattle for the most among American MLS clubs since 2012.
It all began at Children’s Mercy Park on Aug. 8 when Sporting took on the Sounders in the Open Cup finals. After 80-plus minutes of scoreless soccer, Kei Kamara netted a penalty in the 84th before Zach Scott answered two minutes later. A scoreless extra time took the match to penalties where Sporting won 3-2, leading to the first trophy lift in front of the Blue Hell.
Having missed out on the Supporters’ Shield by a single point in 2013, Sporting was hungry for some hardware when the postseason rolled around. The 2013 MLS Cup playoffs opened with Sporting matching the Revolution 3-3 on aggregate before Claudio Bieler propelled them into the conference semifinals in extra time. Following a 0-0 draw in Houston, Sporting eliminated the Dynamo 2-1 in front of the Sporting faithful, setting up an MLS Cup at Children’s Mercy Park.
Sporting and Real Salt Lake locked horns on Dec. 7 in the coldest MLS match on record at that time. A grueling 90 minutes produced a 1-1 draw and 30 more minutes did not break the deadlock. Penalties nearly went the distance, but Aurelian Collin sank his before Lovel Palmer pinged his off the crossbar allowing Sporting to paint the wall with their second MLS Cup title.
Coming off the highs of MLS Cup, Sporting was unable to lift a trophy in 2014. Forward Dom Dwyer had himself a season, scoring 24 goals in all competitions, a club high to this day.
Sporting recaptured glory in 2015, winning the Open Cup on the Philadelphia Union’s home turf. Again, penalties had to decide the final after 120 minutes produced an even scoreline. Jordi Quintilla sank the final Sporting KC penalty as they lifted the third trophy in four seasons.
Sporting made the playoffs again in 2016 but found no trophies this time around. That drought lasted all of a season when the club and the Open Cup finals returned to Children’s Mercy Park in 2017. Latif Blessing fired home in the first half and Daniel Salloi scored the soon-to-be winner in the 66th. Sporting held on to win 2-1 claiming their fourth title in six seasons, a best in MLS at the time.
The Modern Day Sporting 2018-Today
In 2018 the team was up 1-0 over the Portland Timbers at halftime of the Western Conference Semifinals but could not hold on, suffering a 3-2 defeat.
In 2019, Sporting cruised to the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals but ran into Liga MX and eventual champions Monterrey. That season, Sporting’s playoff streak came to a close.
The topsy-turvy 2020 season was stopped two matches in. Sporting then competed in the MLS is Back Tournament, making it out of the group stages and adding five competitive matches to the total. A playoff loss to Minnesota United brought an end to that wild year. Beginning the season with restrictive guidelines, Sporting’s 2021 was another crazy season. Again, the club was unable to get past the conference semifinals after losing to Real Salt Lake.
Saturday, 1000 competitive matches will have come and gone in Sporting KC’s storied history. Two league titles, four Open Cups and one Supporters’ Shield later and the winning mentality is still in place all these years later.
HIGHLIGHTS: Sporting KC 4-1 Portland Timbers | Aug. 21, 2022
After an injury-riddled 2022 season, Sporting KC’s offense has come to life in the final third of the campaign. They became the first club in league history to score three goals in the first half in three straight matches and lead all clubs in goals in August.
Fans can purchase tickets to the historic match at SeatGeek.com as the club looks back on its past and prepares to continue the culture of success in the future.