Matt Besler and Johnny Russell drinking beer - KC Cauldron

Sporting captain Matt Besler was at club's first-ever match: I was focused on cotton candy

He didn't know it at the time, but Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler was gazing upon his future at Arrowhead Stadium on April 13, 1996. Then nine-years-old, the future captain of the club was in attendance for the Kansas City Wizards' inaugural MLS match.

The Wiz won 3-0 over the Colorado Rapids, Digital Takawira scored the club's first-ever goal. It remains as Besler's lasting memory from that day.

"I don't remember too much from the game," Besler said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. "But I remember Digital Takawira scoring the very first goal and doing the Digital crawl. My dad had told me about that, that we brought in this striker that had a famous celebration and if he scored to watch him closely. That was a cool moment."

More than two decades later, Besler is a key part of the club's history. He was drafted by Sporting in 2009 and has helped guide the team to success over the 2010s, making 286 appearances (and counting) with one MLS Cup and three Lamar Hunt US Open Cups to his name. 

It wasn't a Hollywood script for Besler though. There is no flashback of him first looking at the grass, with amazement washing over his face before telling his parents that would be him one day. Nope, he was just enjoying a nice day at the stadium and hoping to satiate his sweet tooth.

"I wish I could say [I dreamed of playing for Kansas City that day], it'd make a much better story, but I can't really say that," Besler admitted. "I never really had that moment where the lightbulb went off and was like 'Ah, this is what I'm going to do!' I was a normal kid. I wasn't thinking of becoming a professional soccer player while watching that game, I was focused on trying to get my parents to get me cotton candy."

The Besler family got into soccer through the 1994 World Cup. He says his family watched a lot of sports and were getting into soccer thanks to the tournament. 

Matt played soccer growing up. Soon, too, would his brother Nick, nearing his third birthday during the time of Sporting's inaugural match. He now plays for Real Salt Lake.

"It did open the door for me to realizing how big the game is, on a global scale," Besler said. "Until then, soccer for me was just something I played on my youth team. But once Kansas City got this team, we started looking at all these players coming from different countries with different stories. That's when I started following the game at a much higher level. So I guess in some ways that was the start." 

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