KANSAS CITY, Kan. – A light show and fireworks helped kickoff Thursday night’s MLS playoff match between Sporting KC and the Portland Timbers.
It was a sight St. Louis soccer fans hope they will soon see. The family behind the effort to bring a soccer team to St. Louis was in Kansas City to witness Thursday night’s match.
Carolyn Kindle Betts and her uncle Andy Taylor were in attendance.
“I’m shocked St. Louis doesn’t already have a team,” said Kansas City resident Jamie Harrigan.
Kurt Austin, the communications director for Sporting KC, said the team would welcome the addition of St. Louis to the MLS.
“Sporting Kansas City fans are very well known for their travel,” he said. “It would be great to have someone three hours down the road on I-70. Our current closest opponent is Minnesota United which is about a six to seven-hour drive.”
Sporting KC fans are not the only soccer fans who travel. Hundreds of Portland Timbers fans were visible in Kansas City on Thursday. Several of them helped fill the Yard House restaurant near the stadium.
“We’ve spent well over a thousand dollars to make this trip,” said one fan who traveled from Oregon.
Austin said one reason a team has been successful in Kansas City is they have a soccer-only stadium that’s not too big. He said it helps create a great experience for fans and provides an appealing view for television broadcasts.
“We’ve had sellouts every MLS game going back to 2012, so it’s been really well received. The team’s been extremely successful,” he said.
Austin said the team’s presence has also helped soccer programs in the Kansas City area grow.
“On both the boys’ and girls’ sides, we’ve seen a lot of success in the youth levels on up,” said Austin. “Part of that’s our academy. Part of that is our youth affiliates we’ve been able to start. Part of that is programming you can do with camps and clinics going to schools and churches and other community partners.”