Sporting KC owner Cliff Illig talks World Cup bid, playoff push and the future of MLS

Cliff Illig and Peter Vermes - Sporting KC ownership

Sporting Kansas City owner Cliff Illig made a special appearance Thursday on Sports Radio 810 WHB, joining The Program host Soren Petro live from the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe.

Illig, a founder of Cerner and an integral member of the Sporting Club ownership group since 2006, dove into several soccer-centric topics in a compelling 30-minute discussion along the greens of Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline, Nevada.

First up was a prideful reflection of the Women's World Cup, which saw Kansas City shine as one of the greatest watch party hosts on the planet throughout the tournament. In addition to showering praise on the U.S. Women's National Team, Illig expressed confidence that Kansas City is well-positioned to become an official Host City for the 2026 FIFA Men's World Cup. He was quick to acknowledge that competition will be stern, however, as only 10 of the 17 bidding cities will host matches. As Illig put it, "We'll give it our best shot, and we've got a good reputation of punching above our weight. We don't feel like we're outgunned at all."

Illig also shared his thoughts on the recent progress of the U.S. Men's National Team, which earned a second-place finish at the Concacaf Gold Cup last weekend. Sporting's owner was pleased with the Americans' performance in the competition and believes head coach Gregg Berhalter has the side trending in the right direction as preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup approach.

The conversation wouldn't have been complete without a thorough examination of Sporting Kansas City. Illig admitted that the club's run to the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals took its toll over the next few weeks as injuries and on-field struggles mounted. Nevertheless, Sporting sit just five points below the playoff line, and Illig has upmost belief that Manager Peter Vermes and company are in the process of righting the ship.

Lastly, Illig shed insight on what he believes the future of MLS will look like. The importance of cultivating Academy talent will become increasingly vital, he says, as well as acquiring high-caliber players from abroad who are in their prime rather than at the twilight of their careers.

Listen to the entirety of Illig's excellent interview below.