"This Week in Sporting," presented by The Smile Generation, is a weekly series that highlights the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City. To visit the series archive, click here.
1. Roster Moves
Sporting Kansas City announced last week a series of roster moves ahead of the 2021 MLS season. The club notably declined contract options for Eric Dick, Wan Kuzain, Winston Reid and Richard Sanchez, while Matt Besler is now out of contract. Sporting are currently in discussions with Roger Espinoza, Gerso Fernandes, Felipe Gutierrez and Erik Hurtado regarding their futures with the club.
Sporting now have 20 players under contract for the 2021 season: the five players whose contract options were exercised plus the 15 players who were already under contract in 2021. For a full list of Sporting’s offseason roster moves, visit SportingKC.com/tracker.
A living legend on and off the field has ended his remarkable 12-year stint at Sporting Kansas City. Matt Besler, a World Cup veteran and former MLS Best XI selection who has won four major championships with his hometown club, is now out of contract at Sporting.
For more than a decade, Besler spearheaded Sporting's backline and blossomed into one of Major League Soccer's best and most accomplished players. The 2012 MLS Defender of the Year would go on to feature regularly for the United States Men's National Team, winning two Gold Cups and representing his country at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
As for his accomplishments at Sporting, Besler's resume looms large: three U.S. Open Cup titles accompany the 2013 MLS Cup championship, with the center back playing an instrumental role as the club's captain for seven seasons. Besler is Sporting's all-time leader in appearances, starts and minutes played, and his legacy as a club ambassador and Kansas City hero will last forever.
3. Three's Elite Company
In continued celebration of its landmark 25th season, Major League Soccer announced last week The Greatest 25 presented by AT&T, a platform that honors the 25 brightest stars in the history of Major League Soccer. Among the 25 legendary players are three former members of Sporting Kansas City: midfielder Preki, goalkeepers Tony Meola and Kevin Hartman.
The 25 Greatest was determined by a special panel of more than 200 MLS experts from across North America, all of whom selected the 25 players who have achieved the most on the field, driven the narrative off the field and helped lay the foundation of MLS.
4. Masks Still Available
Although the 2020 season has ended, Sporting Kansas City's drive to help the community continues. In an initiative announced last month, Sporting Kansas City has partnered with Harvesters - The Community Food Network to launch the “KC As One” mask campaign. The community program helps feed those in need throughout the holiday season while also supporting public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporters can visit SportingKC.com/KCAsOne to purchase a limited-edition “KC As One” facemask while supplies last. Proceeds from mask sales will go to Harvesters, a regional food bank serving the entire Kansas City region. For every mask sold, Harvesters can provide up to 18 meals for individuals and families in need. Through this initiative, Sporting fans have already helped donate more than 18,000 meals for fellow Kansas Citians.
5. Roster-Building Events
Columbus Crew SC were crowned champions of Major League Soccer on Saturday night with an emphatic 3-0 home win over Seattle Sounders FC in the 2020 MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. With the 2020 campaign done and dusted, an important offseason period has officially begun for all 27 MLS clubs. Over the next week, teams across the league will have opportunities to acquire new players through a number of different roster mechanisms.
On Tuesday, newcomers Austin FC will add up to five players to their inaugural roster in the 2020 MLS Expansion Draft. Because Sporting Kansas City had a player selected in the 2019 Expansion Draft, the club is exempt from having any players taken in this year's event. The roster-building calendar also includes the Re-Entry Process, End-of-Year Waivers and the start of Free Agency. Details and dates for each of the offseason roster mechanisms are available here.
6. Vote Zusi
Over the course of 25 seasons, Major League Soccer has featured a number of world-class goals from standout players. Among the very best goals in league history is Graham Zusi's unforgettable 50-yard piledriver from 2011, which is one of 25 nominees for The Greatest Goal presented by AT&T. MLS on Saturday unveiled the 25 sublime goals that comprise the fan ballot. Supporters can visit MLSsoccer.com to cast their vote for the best-all-time goal until Wednesday at noon CT.
7. Positive Change
Major League Soccer announced last week that the 2020 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year has been awarded to Black Players for Change (BPC). Consisting of more than 170 players, coaches and staff of MLS, BPC is an organization working to bridge the racial equality gap. The organization, announced on Juneteenth, 2020, strives to advance the attention on human rights inequalities from protest to programs, partnerships and policies that address systemic racism.
Sporting Kansas City representatives on the BPC coalition include Gianluca Busio, Amadou Dia, Cam Duke, Erik Hurtado, Jaylin Lindsey and Khiry Shelton.