Sporting Kansas City principal owner Cliff Illig joined Sports Radio 810 WHB on Friday for an insightful hour-long segment that spanned a variety of compelling topics tied to the club and the sport of soccer in the United States.
Joining host Soren Petro on The Program, Illig began by remarking on Sporting’s impressive first half of the 2021 MLS campaign, which has seen Manager Peter Vermes’ side climb to the top of the Western Conference standings and come within striking distance of first place in the Supporters’ Shield race.
Illig also spoke more broadly of Major League Soccer as a whole, noting the league’s substantial growth over the last few years—both in quality on the field and financial investment away from the pitch. The average MLS club is now valued north of $500 million, a sum worth more than all but six clubs in the English Premier League. Sporting’s principal owner identified high quality of play, large crowds at soccer-specific stadiums and increased television viewership were key to feeding the long-term growth of the league, as lucrative TV contracts will go a long way in vaulting MLS upward.
Illig and the Sporting Club ownership group have been accustomed to punching above their weight, consistently helping Vermes field a squad that competes at or near the top of the standings while contending for championships. Such has been the case during a decade in which Sporting has hoisted four major titles, with the 2013 MLS Cup placed alongside three U.S. Open Cup trophies.
In addition to describing how to remain competitive in a small market, Illig cast his eye toward the future by discussing the ins and outs of Kansas City’s ongoing bid to bring the 2026 FIFA World Cup to the heartland. The World Cup would unquestionably be the biggest event Kansas City has ever hosted, generating an estimated $700 million in economic activity while drawing visitors from across the globe. Illig believes Kansas City’s World Cup bid has been well positioned but also acknowledges that work remains to be done before FIFA selects its host cities during the first half of 2022.
Illig spoke candidly of Sporting’s performance in the Leagues Cup on Tuesday night at Children’s Mercy Park, underscoring the importance of international competitions between MLS and LIGA MX and the significance of international tournaments in the greater landscape of soccer both in the U.S. and globally.
Lastly, Illig shed insight on the decision to welcome Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes to the Sporting Club ownership group, lauding the generational talent as a well-rounded leader who wants to make a lasting impact on the Kansas City community—an impact that includes fostering the growth of soccer in the region.