Don't Kill The Mellinger

On Matt Besler and the best decision he never really had

Matt Besler played against some of the best players in the world at the World Cup in Brazil, including Cristiano Ronaldo.
Matt Besler played against some of the best players in the world at the World Cup in Brazil, including Cristiano Ronaldo. The Associated Press

Soon, it appears, Matt Besler and Sporting Kansas City will announce a new contract that will keep the Overland Park kid with his hometown team long-term.

It will be a happy moment. Besler, as much as any athlete of the last generation, is Kansas City born and Kansas City made. He grew up on youth teams here, graduated from Blue Valley West and was drafted by Sporting in 2009. His wife is a local girl.

So it will be a happy moment. Sporting can build and market around Besler in a way the Royals envisioned for themselves when they drafted Bubba Starling out of Gardner Edgerton High School.

That Besler, as it turned out, never really had much of a choice will be ignored, then forgotten.

Earlier this week, Besler said that English clubs Fulham and Sunderland expressed interest. Fulham was recently relegated out of the English Premier League, and Sunderland is a regular in the bottom half of the EPL. Besler’s MLS situation is too good for him to take just any overseas offer. Money is always important, but Besler would also have to be somewhere he knew he’d play and would feel confident that he would continue to develop.

Plus, a report in the Sunderland Echo said that club was unlikely to make a formal transfer offer, and last week Sporting coach Peter Vermes said there weren’t any transfer offers worth Sporting’s time to discuss.

Besler, to his credit, handled this situation beautifully. He is 27 years old, coming off a strong (but not flawless) showing in the World Cup. There is every reason to believe that interest from stronger leagues than the MLS would never be higher. He also made it clear throughout the process that he understood this would not just be his decision to make.

Even without any real offer to go somewhere else, Besler is backing his words about wanting to build something lasting here. His MLS contract is up at the end of next season, so he could’ve played the next 18 months or so and then been a free agent at 28. Without a transfer fee, maybe his market would’ve been different.

Besler is looking for a contract extension from Sporting, not just more money on the deal that is paying him $200,000 this year and $220,000 next year. That’s not quite Sal Perez’s contract with the Royals, but it is far below market value — Besler starts for the World Cup team and is the 32nd-highest paid defender in MLS.

Giving Besler more money and more years is a no-brainer move for Sporting, of course, both from a soccer and marketing standpoint. This is the way the team always hoped this would play out. This is one more example of Sporting benefitting from both its own success (Besler would be much less likely to stay for a mismanaged club) and a bit of fortune (a USMNT player growing up local and feeling such loyalty).

That Besler never really had much of a decision to make doesn’t end up mattering.

He’s making the decision he probably wanted to make all along.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to or follow him at For previous columns, go to


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