Come Saturday, our attention will again shift to Kansas City, just as it did for Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game in July and the United States’ World Cup Qualifier against Jamaica in October. Add in a pair of CONCACAF Champions League matches, a full post season, and two U.S. Open Cup games and the two-year-old stadium has been the most prominent in MLS this year. Only a Cup final and some CCL knockout round action would have made it a perfect season at the park.
Not that Sporting Park needs any of that to raise its profile. Opened in July 2011, the home of the Eastern Conference champions has quietly surpassed Red Bull Arena as the most-admired facility in the league, with seeming none of its $200 million price tag going to waste. Whereas the Harrison site enjoyed one year as the object of MLS’s affection after it opening in 2010, the role Sporting Park has had in the former Kansas City Wizards’ overall rebranding has shown the power that comes with a new, well-executed venue.
Modest in size (18,467, for soccer), Sporting Park has combined the charms of something shiny and new with the character of a facility with soccer at its heart. In the process, they’ve given the Cauldron and the team’s other supporters groups a place to take root. With a packed stadium that’s become known as one of loudest in the league, it’s no mystery why Sporting Park was able to force its way into the U.S. Men’s National Team World Cup Qualifier rotation.
If breaking into that cloister of preferred venues had been Sporting Park’s only noteworthy moment of 2013, this would have still been a momentous year, but showcased by Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game and the league’s title match, only greed could hope for a better year Kansas City’s venue. And on Saturday, the stadium and its fans will get a chance to close the year in style, Sporting Park having quickly become one of the flagship venues in Major League Soccer.