I’ve always loved soccer but after interning with Sporting Kansas City last summer, I’ve remained a loyal fan and follower. It was impossible not to.
I was hooked after watching LIVESTRONG Stadium being built from scratch, being on the field for the inaugural game and getting to know the staff. I loved the humility of the players and their team effort. Their drive to prove themselves was contagious and resonated with the entire Sporting KC office and team.
This past Wednesday, Sporting KC won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Cup, solidifying their place in Major League Soccer and putting them on the same level as the Royals and the Chiefs as a “real” Kansas City team.
Although Sporting’s challenges seem to have taken place on the field, most of the difficulty came from naysayers. In 2010, Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman decided to turn the Kansas City Wizards around with a new name to construct an entirely new brand identity with the help of Barkley.
It wasn’t easy. Loyal Wizards fans did not take this attempt to re-brand lying down. Everyone questioned the name, the players, the coaches and the owners. Yet Heineman went even further. He planned to build a state-of-the-art soccer stadium in Kansas City.
The city was buzzing. Would Heineman be able to pull it off? Does Kansas City have enough soccer fans for this stadium? Why would anyone call a team “Sporting” anyway? Though the complaints and mocking may never completely stop, Sporting Kansas City has solidified their brand image and identity in a dramatic win against the Seattle Sounders this past week.
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Cup puts Sporting and Kansas City on the map for a premier soccer experience and proves that Sporting really does have the most loyal and enthusiastic fans in the league.
Let’s be real, Sporting KC scored.
Lucky enough to have attended the game, I cheered Wednesday’s win with more than 18,000 fellow fans. I wasn’t only cheering for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Cup but for Sporting Kansas City’s re-branding victory.