The Digital Crawl and Chopper The Dragon: A look back at the club's inaugural match ahead of its anniversary

Digital Crawl - Kansas City Wiz vs. Colorado Rapids - April 13, 1996

Sporting Kansas City will host Inter Miami CF at 7:30 p.m. CT this Saturday at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. The highly-anticipated fixture comes on the 28-year anniversary of the club’s inaugural match, and the stadium’s first MLS match, with key players -- including Sean Bowers, Diego Gutierrez, Matt McKeon, Vitalis "Digital" Takawira and Scott Uderitz -- from the momentous occasion set to return. looks back on April 13, 1996 to celebrate the milestone in the team's storied history as a charter member of MLS with an article originally published as part of the site's On This Day series. For more, readers can check out One Club: The First 25 Years of Major League Soccer in Kansas City from the Kansas City Public Library.

It all began 28 years ago this Saturday.

Well, not exactly. Several momentous events preceded Sporting Kansas City's inaugural match as an MLS charter member on April 13, 1996. That long and winding road was a storybook tale in and of itself, masterfully chronicled in's seven-part 25th Season Rewind series.

But in terms of what has actually transpired on the pitch, Sporting's remarkable ride in Major League Soccer started on April 13, 1996 when more than 21,000 fans — including a 9-year-old kid named Matt Besler — ascended on Arrowhead Stadium to see the Kansas City Wiz battle the Colorado Rapids.

Most supporters know what happened from there. Dreadlocked striker Digital Takawira wasted no time becoming a folk hero, bagging a brace, while longtime United States international and now Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas also found the score sheet as the Wiz prevailed 3-0 in a triumphant opening chapter for the club.

But what about some of the lesser-known nuggets of that historic match and the 1996 MLS season as a whole? Time to toss out some fun facts in the space below...

CLUB MASCOT – Chopper the Dragon debuted as part of the long-running partnership between Sporting Kansas City and Price Chopper. The man underneath the heavy suit, Kirk Melton, was a 23-year-old former cheerleader who had also served as Kasey the Kangaroo at UMKC athletic events. He was previously a Kansas City Royals ball boy for three years and a clubhouse attendant for two years. He had flown back to Kansas City from Royals spring training to try out for Wiz mascot gig.

CLOCKS – MLS used the countdown clock (and the old-school penalty shootout) from 1996-1999 in attempt to make the game more relatable and appealing to fans. The clock would stop in dead-ball situations or by the referee’s decision and there was no stoppage time. The countdown clock and old-school shootout were abandoned at the end of the 1999 season.

LEAGUE FORMAT – The 1996 MLS season had 10 teams, five in the Eastern and Western Conferences. The top four in each conference made the playoffs, so only two teams missed out. The conference semis and finals were best-of-3 format, while MLS Cup was a single game.

VITALIS "DIGITAL" TAKAWIRA – Here is an explanation on how he got his famous nickname. "It came from my first club team, Dynamos, in Zimbabwe. When you graduate to the first team, the supporters give you a nickname. It was they who gave me that name. Perhaps because they thought I was so quick and controlled on the ball, like something digital, like a computer or camera.”

ATTENDANCE – The announced attendance of 21,141 stood as a club record until May 4, 2002. To this day, the inaugural match remains the second-largest home opener crowd in club history behind 2003.

COIN TOSS – Owners Lamar and Clark Hunt were both present for the game's coin toss, which the Wiz won.

DRUMMERS IN THE ENDZONE – The Wiz had several groups of musicians try out prior to the inaugural match to help bolster the stadium atmosphere. A five-piece band was hired for the match, but they were eventually replaced by the Wiz Samba Fan Club (consisting of musicians on the surdo thigh-high drum, four smaller drums, tambourine and triangle).

TAPE DELAYED - The inaugural game was not shown live on TV in Kansas City. Rather, it was shown on tape delay the next day on KCTV5.