The silver trophy arrived in the hands of Matt Besler, the last man in a parade of Sporting Kansas City players who walked to the Sprint Plaza outside Sporting Park. The music — "We Are the Champions" — played over the loud speakers on a sunny afternoon, and Besler lifted the trophy toward a crowd of 300 waiting fans.
"Sporting Champs," the players' navy blue T-shirts read.
A day after Sporting KC won its third U.S. Open Cup championship with a penalty-kick victory against Philadelphia, the club returned to Kansas City — briefly — to celebrate its third trophy in four seasons.
Sporting KC also won the Open Cup in 2012, preceding its MLS championship in 2013. All three of those titles came via penalty kicks in the final match.
"This championship is a lot different than our first two because it was away from home," said Besler, who was a member of all three teams. "... It's still great to bring back a trophy to Kansas City. This one feels a lot more intimate. We had a little bit less fans there, but we (still) had 1,200 fans.
"We have the fans coming out today. It's a different experience, but it's a special one, too."
Sporting KC squeezed its celebration into a busy travel schedule. The team flew back to Kansas City on Thursday and arrived only a couple of hours before the afternoon ceremony. It was scheduled to depart for Portland at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Sporting KC returns to MLS action against the Timbers at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Coach Peter Vermes said he allowed himself to celebrate the latest Open Cup championship until 1 a.m. Thursday morning, when he turned his attention to Portland.
"I think the great thing is there's a consistency within the group. It's three championships over four years," Vermes said. "It's what we've wanted to create here, and that was not to become a one-hit wonder and (instead) be a club that's competitive year after year. I think this proves that we have a consistent group. We've been a culture here that wants to win and is going to continue to try do that year in and year out."