One of the clubs competing to dethrone Seattle Sounders as the champions of Major League Soccer (MLS) is Sporting Kansas City, also known as Sporting KC. The American professional soccer club is based in Kansas City, Kansas. The club competes as a member of the Western Conference, having returned in 2015 after spending ten seasons in the Eastern Conference.
Sporting Kansas City’s official colors are “sporting blue” and “dark indigo” with “lead” as a tertiary color. The administrative offices are located in Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and the team clubhouse and practice facilities are located in Kansas City, Kansas near Children’s Mercy Park.
Sporting KC began to play in 1996 as a charter team in the league, then known as the Kansas City Wiz. The team was founded by Lamar Hunt in 1995. Since moving across the state line, they have been the only major professional sports league franchise to play their home games in Kansas.
For the majority of their existence, the franchise was known as the Kansas City Wizards. The team rebranded in November 2010, coinciding with its move to their home stadium, now known as Children’s Mercy Park.
The franchise has won the MLS Cup twice (2000, 2013), the Supporters’ Shield in 2000, and the U.S. Open Cup in 2004, 2012, 2015 and 2017. The club also has a reserve team, Sporting Kansas City II, that plays in the second-tier USL Championship.
The Kansas City MLS franchise was founded by Lamar Hunt, who was also the founder of the American Football League, the Kansas City Chiefs, the United Soccer Association, and Major League Soccer. The Kansas City Wiz played their first game on April 13, 1996, defeating the Colorado Rapids at Arrowhead Stadium, 3–0.
The Wiz players included Preki, Mo Johnston and Digital Takawira, and were coached by Ron Newman. The team finished third in the Western Conference (fifth overall) in 1996 regular season with a 17–15 record, qualifying for the first-ever MLS Playoffs.
In the 1996 conference semi-finals, the Wiz beat the Dallas Burn in three games, winning the final game in a shootout, before losing the conference final to the LA Galaxy.
Following the 1996 season, the Wiz changed names, becoming the “Wizards”, following legal action from electronics retailer The Wiz. For the 1997 MLS season, their record was 21–11, sufficient for the Western Conference regular-season championship. Preki was named the 1997 MLS MVP.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Wizards lost to the last-seeded Colorado Rapids. The Wizards had losing records for the 1998 and 1999 seasons, finishing last in the Western Conference both years.
The Wizards fired Ron Newman early during the 1999 season and replaced him with Bob Gansler. The Wizards finished the 1999 season with a record of 8–24, which put them in the last place in the Western Conference once again.
Following MLS expansion, the Wizards moved to the Eastern Conference in 2005. By the end of the 2005 season, despite the solid play of 2005 MLS Defender of the Year Jimmy Conrad, the Wizards found themselves outside the playoffs with a record of 11–9–12. After the season, the team’s veteran leader, Preki announced his retirement.
In the 2006 season, the Wizards just missed out on a playoff berth with a loss to the New York Red Bulls on the final day of the regular season, finishing with a 10–14–8 record. Lamar Hunt sold the club in August 2006 to OnGoal, LLC, a six-man ownership group led by Cerner Corporation co-founders Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig, a local group committed to keeping the Wizards in Kansas City.
The club dedicated its 2007 season to Lamar Hunt, who had died in December 2006. A good start earned them four wins in the first seven weeks of the season. The club picked up goalkeeper Kevin Hartman from the LA Galaxy to help with that position.
Despite winning just four games after the All-Star break, Kansas City managed to finish fifth in the East at 11–12–7 and qualify for the playoffs. The club shifted over to the West as a result of a playoff format change, the Wizards played against Chivas USA.
With the Wizards Davy Arnaud’s goal in the first game to win the series, the defense and Kevin Hartman did the rest and kept Chivas USA off the scoreboard. In the conference final, the Wizards came up short to the Houston Dynamo, 2–0.
In 2013, Kansas City took advantage of MLS’s newly-created retention funds to renew contracts with U.S. national team players Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. Sporting had finished second in the Eastern Conference and overall with 17 wins, 10 losses, and tied 7 times in the regular season.
In the 2013 MLS Playoffs, Sporting KC defeated NE Revolution in the conference semifinals and Houston Dynamo in the conference finals, advancing to MLS Cup 2013. SKC defeated Real Salt Lake on penalties (7–6) after the match was tied 1–1 in regulation and overtime. It was the coldest MLS Cup game on record.
Scottish professional footballer Johnny Russell is the highest-paid player in Sporting Kansas City. The attacking midfielder earns a base salary of $1,700,000.
Sporting Kansas City player salaries for 2019, as released by the MLS Players Union, as of June 1, 2019.