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Sporting Kansas City declare themselves “greatest team in MLS”… Are they?

Jul 21, 2014, 1:45 PM EST

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In case you missed it, Sporting Kansas City made a massive splash over the weekend by locking up U.S. internationals Matt Besler and Graham Zusi to long-term contract extensions and made them Designated Players in the process.

Those deals came after European clubs made some serious moves to snap up both SKC stars, who have been with the club since 2009 just before the club was rebranded as Sporting.

[RELATED: What do Zusi, Besler deals mean for MLS?]

Both Besler and Zusi have been shining lights in the clubs rebirth as one of Major League Soccer’s biggest success stories.

Getting Besler and Zusi to remain in MLS is a very big deal, I wrote more on that here, and signifies a marquee moment in the league’s history. Being able to pay players enough money to swat away the lure of fame and fortune in Europe is no mean feat and shows how far the league has come over the past two to three years.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday night after the deals were confirmed, CEO of SKC’s parent company Sporting Club, Robb Heinemann, aired some pretty bold statements about how big Sporting KC are as a club.

Here’s what Heinemann had to say about his side’s greatness and how big they can become.

“I’ve seen a lot of stuff on social media around – ‘Oh, you know, this is not a good decision for the guys from a national team perspective’ – and to me, that’s complete BS. This is one of the best clubs in the world from a development perspective. The opportunity and the tools that are available here, including Peter and the way he trains these guys, is world-class. So any reference or thought that it’s not a first-class opportunity for these guys to be here, to me, is just complete crap.

“This club has the desire to be one of the greatest in the world. I think right now, we’re the greatest in MLS. Frankly, I think there’s no question that we’re the greatest in MLS. And we’re going to do everything that we can to try to continue to advance the vision of the club over time.”

The “greatest in MLS”… is that true?

Lets look at the facts. Sporting KC, correct me if I’m wrong, are the reigning MLS Cup champions. On the field they were the best team in MLS last season. This year they are currently trucking along atop the Eastern Conference standings and have represented MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Off the field, the way the organization has rebranded themselves is remarkable. Their purpose-built stadium, Sporting Park, is a joy to behold and sells out constantly at just under 20,000. SKC have the seventh-largest average attendance figures in MLS in 2014 (19,842) and could easily attract more fans.

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With their wonderful stadium, fanbase and recent success on the field, are SKC the best in MLS?

Sporting have developed guys like Besler and Zusi into U.S. national team stars after drafting them from college and they have given plenty of other young Americans, such as Erik Palmer-Brown, the chance to step up. However when you look around MLS, can you definitively say that Sporting are the greatest club? No.

The great thing about what people are calling ‘MLS 3.0′ is that organizations such as the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and in more recent times Toronto FC, have elevated the league to a whole new level. Seattle are averaging 42,771 fans per home game, while Toronto, Vancouver, Portland, the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake are all getting over 20,000. A great club is defined by the number of fans who show up, their influence on the domestic league and further afield, how many great players they develop, how many trophies they win and many other factors.

If you look around the league, so many different teams can claim they are the “greatest” for one reason or another. As the history of MLS begins to take shape, we can look back on the four titles LA have won compared to KC’s two and make certain arguments. How about Seattle and the New York Red Bulls bringing big-name DPs to the league, does that make them “great”? That’s what it is all about, there is no right or wrong answer here. We should take only positives from Heinemann’s comments as he fuels the flames of debate around the MLS community.

Is it fair to call Sporting KC “the greatest” club in MLS? No. They are one of a number of great clubs in MLS. That is something to get excited about as the future for North America’s top-flight has perhaps never been brighter.

  1. mikeevergreen - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    “Greatest Teams in MLS” should not have a loss and a tie against bottom feeders. SKC does right now. “Greatest Team” debunked.

  2. jhnyr45 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Continuously win championships then maybe, but they haven’t yet

  3. lyleoross - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    What an irrelevant article. An owner selling his club’s value is not worth a write up. Find me one owner, with the exception of Chivas, who says their club isn’t the best.

    • dreadpirate82 - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:10 PM

      Agreed, but I will take anything I can get about MLS.

  4. mazblast - Jul 21, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    They’re the greatest as long as they have the current title trophy. Period. It’s not about how many you won, some long ago (got that, Yankees/Cowboys/49ers/Lakers/Celtics fans?), it’s not about how consistently you make the playoffs (Patriots), it’s not about division/conference titles, it’s not about whether you came close to winning last year, or anything like that. It’s whether YOU own the trophy NOW.

  5. galaxycontrol - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    I’ll admit that SKC is currently the best team in MLS after i just witnessed them thoroughly beat my Galaxy. Seattle Sounders might have something to say about it though.

    • mlsconvert88888 - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:08 PM

      Yep, it pains me to say it, but with the current standings there isn’t a team that’s even getting a whiff of Seattle’s jock right about now.

  6. charliej11 - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    I agree with Mazblast, but the Sounders are the greatest, because they will win this year.

    It is a fun discussion that will be decided on the field….
    …..but I like the fact that the CEO challenges the notion, that is accepted by all lemmings and insecure US soccer fans that US soccer can’t develop players. It is wrong and the CEO doesn’t back off or show the usual insecurity. Good for him. I will look forward to his team finishing second in Seattle for the MLS Championship this year.

  7. player169 - Jul 21, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    KC fan here. I don’t think we are the best in MLS. MLS is inherently setup, so you it is very hard to set up a dynasty. The Sounders have better fans, a good team. I think KC has the better style and coach, but every year is a crap shoot.

    Organization and development, KC has some examples to brag of…but not sure why Heinaman is handing out bulletin board material for the opposition.

    I’m sure being best in the world is their goal…and I applaud them for that…

  8. enzocerto - Jul 21, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    Seattle Sounders are the best team in MLS right now. Until Yedlin leaves no one is stopping them from winning it all. Sporting KC has had great seasons the last few years, but they’re far from a dynasty.

  9. mvktr2 - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:06 PM

    I follow several MLS teams, SKC aint one of the ones I follow, as well as the league as a whole. There is a rather strong case to be made.

    *In the past 2.5 years SKC has sent a player to the EPL, Championship, & Portugese Premier League while fending off teams to retain players like Zusi, Besler, & Palmer-Brown (more on him later). Young players and clubs know if a player comes to SKC they have a real chance to move on in their career.

    * It must be noted SKC did a great deal to further the development of all 6 players mentioned/alluded to above.

    * Their academy is starting to show real promise by producing a relatively elite prospect such as 18 yr old Palmer Brown whom they’ve rebuffed 7 figure offers to retain.

    * Their scouting, prospect identification, and perhaps technical development staff are perhaps the best in the league as witnessed by the bringing in of many successful projects from Kai Kamara to the current 19 yr old prospect Juliao. My belief is their talent identification/scouting is better than anyone in the league by a fair margin and it’s the foundation of almost everything else listed here. The one major speedbump here was Marco Bravo and Bieler hasn’t been a homerun but he’s found a role and the development and resurgence of Feilhaber more than offsets Bieler’s short comings as Vermes and staff deserve a lot of credit for doing with Benny what the Revs and other teams could not.

    * They’ve won a championship and have been in contention for several years.

    * It’s clear to anyone paying attention their successes be it in scouting, player development, fan interest/attendance, gameday atmosphere, etc. are planned well thought out successes.

    No doubt they’re doing a lot of things right at SKC. The good news for non-SKC fans? Other teams will follow their model and improve upon it, that’s how business works and it’s good for MLS & MLS fans!

  10. jdfsquared - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:22 PM

    Greatest is more than best on the field. It’s fanbase, atmostphere, star power, relevance and tradition. Now, tradition is hard to come by in this league. But all together, I’d have to say that the Seattle Sounders are the Yankees of MLS. Once they win a title (whenever that is) this will be hard to dispute for a while.

    • jdfsquared - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:26 PM

      That said, the first 10 years of MLS, DCU were the Yankees. Then in 2007 it became the Los Angeles Landon Beckhams. Now it’s the Sounders. All that’s missing is the title.

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