The Full 90

Strong soccer roots are being planted in KC

Has this happened to you?

On Tuesday, I was grocery shopping when an employee recognized I was a soccer fan and asked if I was going to Wednesday’s game. He was pretty excited to have landed a ticket for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship game.

That led to a question I ask any Sporting Kansas City fan I bump into: "Have you been a soccer fan for very long?"

The answer was one I hear often: "No. I didn't really like soccer, but my friend is a season-ticket holder and he took me to a game last year. I was hooked."

And, that my friends, is why it was so important that Livestrong Sporting Park was built.

It's amazing how often I run into fans who are relatively new to the game. No offense to the T-Bones or the Chiefs, but soccer games at CommunityAmerica Ballpark and Arrowhead Stadium were never going to turn casual sports into soccer fans.

Livestrong, and its awesome atmosphere, does and has.

It's helped Sporting become ingrained in the city's sports consciousness like the Wizards never were (and if you haven't done so, read

Charles Gooch’s

excellent analysis on that subject).

As I've noted before, it doesn't matter where you go around town, there are Sporting Kansas City shirts, hats, car magnets, etc., everywhere. Sporting paraphernalia may not be as prevalent as the Chiefs, Royals or our college teams, but it’s no longer out of the norm to see someone wearing our hometown soccer team’s colors.

That's a combination of a new crop of fans (better than 19,000 fans per game) and the unique logo (which, I must admit, has grown on me).

It's also the result of the commitment shown by Sporting Kansas City's ownership group. They've done whatever it takes to make soccer successful in Kansas City by making home games a unique and fun event, while also spending some serious money on facilities and players.

You hear the Sporting players and coaches praise the ownership group so often that it kind of loses its impact. But it shouldn't.

So kudos to them for helping bring the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy where it belongs: Kansas City.

And kudos to Peter Vermes and his team for winning that championship.

And, finally, kudos to the fans, particularly those who introduced the beautiful game to family and friends.

| Pete Grathoff, pgrathoff@kcstar.com

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