When the Chiefs or Royals talk about “the process,” Kansas City fans roll their eyes and mutter things not fit for a family newspaper.
For the town’s two most visible sports franchises, “the process” has become synonymous with decades of frustration, agonizing failure and seemingly interminable championship droughts.
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Sporting Kansas City trumpeted its own process Thursday during a news conference to announce a contract extension for technical director and manager Peter Vermes at the MLS club’s Swope Park training facility.
Of course, no one seemed to be squirming as Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman explained the rationale behind extending Vermes’ contract through the 2017 season.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Heineman said. “We haven’t done what we want to do, and that’s consistently win a bunch of championships. That’s the goal, but I think we’ve got the pieces in place to make that happen.”
The Royals haven’t produced a playoff season since the 1985 World Series, the longest playoff drought among any of North American’s major sports franchises.
The last time the Chiefs’ process netted a playoff victory after the 1993 season, President Bill Clinton hadn’t even finished his first year in office.
Meanwhile, Vermes took a scuffling club and turned it into a perennial power in the Eastern Conference.
Sporting KC owns back-to-back regular-season championships and won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last year. The club currently sits atop the conference table once again with designs on hoisting the MLS Cup at season’s end, not to mention its ambition for the upcoming CONCACAF Champions’ League.
In other words, Vermes’ process and, by extension Sporting KC’s, is actually working.
“I truly believe that I work for the best professional sports organization in the world,” Vermes said. “We have five owners in Neal Patterson, Cliff Illig, Pat Curran, Greg Maday and Robb Heineman who are absolutely committed to the sport of soccer and building Sporting Club.”
Locked in for at least five more years, Sporting KC has rebuilt its senior roster into one of the league’s best on Vermes’ watch, developing All-Star caliber players year after year like Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza.
Now, with the contract extension, Vermes ambition has grown. He wants to help Sporting KC create the best youth academy system in the league and the nation as well, creating a talent pipeline that will keep the club in the upper echelon of MLS for decades to come.
“Obviously, championship being the most important thing to this organization, but I think having a real world-class youth organization program is important,” Heineman said. “Knowing that we’ve got four-and-a-half years to execute that and take things to the next level is really important. I think Peter’s got the skill set to do and he’s proven it in the draft and developing players here with the senior team. Extending that to the youth level is going to be really important step for us.”
Not surprisingly, clubs from throughout MLS and around the world have inquired about Vermes’ services since he took over as technical director in November 2006, but —a brief flirtation with the LA Galaxy during the summer of 2008 aside — Vermes has remained committed to Sporting KC.
There seems to be no end in sight for that commitment and, for once, “the process” seems to be paying dividends here in Kansas City.
“We’ve laid a very solid foundation for this organization, and I’m excited about moving forward and developing all the other aspects that we have discussed,” Vermes said. “There’s more to come, which is even more exciting.”