EDITOR'S NOTE: When you've been around for 25 seasons and you've come as far as Major League Soccer has in a quarter-century, you can bet that there are more than a few rich stories to tell. The excerpt below, authored by Nick Firchau, was published on MLSsoccer.com as part of a long-form feature highlighting supporters who have donned their MLS club's colors since the inaugural 1996 campaign. To read the full story, click here.
The total surpasses 400 and counting.
That’s the number of matches Mark Edson has watched through the various incarnations of MLS in Kansas City. But no season was tougher to endure than that inaugural year.
Back in 1996 the club struggled to sell tickets in the cavernous Arrowhead Stadium, the players donned rainbow-themed jerseys, and they went by “Kansas City Wiz,” a short-lived and openly loathed moniker that was dumped in favor of the Wizards after just one season.
Edson can admit it today. He went to a number of those early games by himself.
“There wasn’t much atmosphere. Some nights there were 4,000-5,000 fans, and we hated the name,” he says with a sigh. “It wasn’t like it was a Chiefs game, where if you had an extra ticket to the game, suddenly five people wanted to go. There were times when I went by myself because I just couldn’t find anyone.”
When the Wizards temporarily relocated to Community America Ballpark in 2008, Edson sat “on the first base side” near midfield, not far from where members of the local press and the broadcast team huddled in the press box. Edson would record the games and watch them after he returned home, often times hearing his own voice screaming at the referees on the broadcast because the microphones were so close to the fans.
Now a 46-year-old father of five and a UPS driver living in Lenexa, Kansas, Edson has some perspective on how far his club has come over 25 years. Following an emphatically successful rebrand in 2010 and a relocation to Children’s Mercy Park a year later, Sporting Kansas City have largely buried any sour memories from its first few years in the league.
“Soccer’s a big thing here now, and I don’t know if I ever expected that to happen,” Edson says. “My kids have never worried if the team would be here next season, or if they’d ever get a real soccer stadium. It’s so much different now. But the originals remember.”