Over the last 10 years, few professional sports franchises have experienced a more transformational journey than Sporting Kansas City. From Wizards to Sporting, from minor league baseball park to world-class soccer stadium, from MLS afterthought to perennial title contender, the 2010s ushered in a Kansas City soccer renaissance as Sporting enjoyed a meteoric rise both on and off the pitch.
Throughout this decade of success, everyone tied to the club—from players and coaches to owners and fans—made priceless memories that will last a lifetime. As the 2010s come to a close, SportingKC.com is counting down the top 20 moments of the decade. The daily series will run from Dec. 12-31, looking back on the biggest matches, announcements and off-the-field developments that left lasting impacts on the club. The top 20 list was determined through voting among front office associates at Sporting. Click here to visit the top 20 as it unfolds.
Sporting Kansas City had undergone a special transformation over the previous 18 months, rebranding from the Kansas City Wizards in late 2010 and moving into Children's Mercy Park the following year. Crowds of 20,000 filled the stadium and a 125-game MLS sellout streak had begun. The team had vastly improved on the field under Manager Peter Vermes. The only component missing from the ultimate turnaround tale was a major trophy.
That brings us to the evening of Aug. 8, 2012, in Kansas City, Kansas.
Even before kickoff, the scenes at Children's Mercy Park were suitable for a film. A rain storm delayed kickoff for nearly an hour, leaving a brilliant double rainbow in its wake. Seeking their first major trophy in eight years, Sporting had the task of dethroning Seattle Sounders FC, which entered the match with a three-year stranglehold on the Open Cup and a six-game unbeaten streak against Peter Vermes' side. A hotly contested game ended tied 1-1 after 120 minutes, bringing forth a penalty kick shootout in front of the raucous Cauldron.
In the fourth round, Jimmy Nielsen made a pivotal stop to deny Christian Tiffert and carry the shootout into a fifth frame. Paulo Nagamura then slotted home, putting the onus on Seattle's Eddie Johnson, who was back in Kansas City for the first time since playing for the Wizards in 2007. Johnson's attempt sailed well over the crossbar, sending Children's Mercy Park into pandemonium as Sporting claimed a coveted trophy for the first time since 2004 and kicked its decade of excellence into another gear.