I guess we didn’t have to wait for Matt Besler’s decision. Whereas there’d been whispers Monday would be decision day, the U.S. international’s choice was announced early, with Sporting Kansas City confirming he can fellow Major League Soccer All-Star Graham Zusi had signed long-term contract extensions that run through the next World Cup.
As with any MLS deal, financial terms of the contract were not disclosed, but as the players confirmed during an interview with ESPN at halftime of today’s Seattle Sounders-Tottenham Hotspur friendly, both will become Designated Players, with contracts that will run through at least the 2018 season. Whereas retention funds were previously used to give each a raise without occupying DP slots, both internationals will now join teammate Claudio Bieler as with the special designation.
“Getting these deals completed is extremely beneficial for the organization and the two players,” Sporting manager Peter Vermes said, in an announcement distributed by the club. “Graham (Zusi) and Matt (Besler) have both proven over the past almost six seasons that they are core players within this club.”
“Core” is a euphemism when it comes to Zusi and Besler. Going forward, Zusi is the focal point of Kansas City’s approach – as important to his team’s setup as any attacking player in the league. At the back, the unparalleled command Besler provides at center back leaves him generally recognized as the team’s best defender. With them, there is no foundation, there is no title – there is no Sporting Kansas City, as we know it.
“This is a dream come to true to know that I’ll be playing my whole career in Kansas City,” explained Besler, who’d been link with moves to England and Germany. “A lot of factors went into this decision, but the ownership and the great fans played a huge part. Now, there is a responsibility to go forward to keep pushing this team farther and farther.”
“This is where I have always wanted to be,” Zusi said. “I have always respected players who have played their entire career with one team and I look forward to a long career in Kansas City.”
While Sporting has other stars like Aurélien Collin and Benny Feilhaber, their two 2009 draftees, both 27 years old, are the foundation. If either left, Vermes would have to rebuild.
With today’s announcement, that’s no longer an issue. Sporting’s taken money banked from their venue’s sellout crowds and put it back into the team.
How much that hurts going forward will depend on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement and the flexibility they’ll have to pay Collin and Feilhaber. For now, however, Sporting’s assured they have the right foundation to make those decisions.