Sporting Kansas City enter the offseason in uncharted territory.
After missing the postseason in 2019 for the first time since their rebrand to Sporting KC nine years ago, they know it is time to change, time to evolve.
“When you underachieve, it makes you have to re-evaluate things,” manager and sporting director Peter Vermes told reporters. “I’m not saying we don’t do it at the end of each year. We do. But obviously you take … maybe a stronger look at it [this time].”
Sporting endured a hellish injury outbreak after advancing to the Concacaf Champions League semifinals at the start of the season. Much like Toronto FC in 2018, they never recovered. With a core group of players at the latter stages of their careers, Sporting will have to acquire reinforcements, and do so differently than in the past.
In a sitdown interview with the Kansas City Star, club co-owner Mike Illig said Sporting were ready to invest financially in the squad more so than they have before. In past interviews, Vermes has touted the fact that they’ve only spent $4 million in total on transfer fees since he started at the club in 2006.
Vermes has been around Major League Soccer since its inception, and has seen MLS develop from “MLS 1.0” to what he now believes is “MLS 3.0,” with much greater spending than in any of the other previous editions. So with Sporting on the outside looking in at the playoffs for the first time since the start of the decade, they’re embracing the challenge of getting themselves back in the mix.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Vermes said. “It’s a real challenge. We’ve got to get ourselves back into the mix and that’s a different place to be. And not to say that every year is not challenging in this business. It is. But also having the ability bring some new players in, make some changes, inject some new capital into the teams, it’s going to be interesting.”
Over the past few months Sporting KC have been linked with four different players whose transfer fees alone would eclipse that $4 million figure that Vermes talks about. The most recent: Alan Pulido and Lucas Cavallini, big-name strikers from Liga MX. With Krisztian Nemeth now out of contract, the only pure striker on their roster at the moment is Erik Hurtado.
“We’re definitely getting a player on each of the lines [attack, midfield and defense],” Vermes said. “For sure each of the lines, we’re getting a player, at least one if not more.”
In particular, he emphasized the amount of capital that was going to be invested. While he wouldn’t discuss specific dollar amounts, his excitement when discussing the club’s spending plans was a marked change in tone from the language used in the past, when Sporting preferred to sell or trade players at their peak value and find budget-oriented solutions.
“I don’t think the dynamics change all that much in that, you know, there’s this certain set of characteristics that we never thought about going after,” Vermes said. “No, I just think that with the injection of capital, it has opened us up to a whole one, two, three different tiers that we can look at that maybe in the past, you know, we couldn’t. I’m looking forward to that.”