For the last 31 days left in the year, we're going to be looking back at 31 different storylines from 2014 in Kansas City soccer. From Sporting KC's roller coaster season, to FC Kansas City and the Missouri Comets both winning their respective league championships, each day we'll have a different article looking back at one of the 31 most important stories in Kansas City soccer this year as we get ready for 2015 and everything it brings.
At this point, everyone knows the story of the Sporting Kansas City turnaround. From a club mired in low attendance for the majority of its history at Arrowhead Stadium to only average attendance at Community America Ballpark, the state of the team from only five years ago has changed dramatically.
The team hit a milestone this year with 50 straight MLS sellouts. That doesn't include US Open Cup matches, friendlies, or CONCACAF Champions League matches. Regardless, this is a significant streak that stretches all the way back to March 25, 2012. That's nearly three full seasons of Sporting Kansas City playing in front of a capacity crowd, a huge mark of the team's popularity in it of itself.
Sporting hit the milestone on August 29 when they welcomed rival Houston Dynamo to Sporting Park. It seemed fitting that the team that had frustrated them so much but also provided the redemption in the 2013 MLS playoffs would signify the silver milestone. The match didn't turn out as planned, as the struggling Dynamo took a 3-1 victory with a lengthy weather delay thrown in as well. This was the start of Sporting KC's fall this season, leading them to the fifth seed and eventual elimination by the New York Red Bulls. However, it was still fun to see the hard work of the club rewarded with fan support.
The streak continued for the next couple of games despite Sporting continuing to falter as 2014 came to a close. A significant game to see was the match against the Chicago Fire on October 10. Sporting needed a win to clinch a playoff berth, while the Chicago Fire were long eliminated. This was going against Game 1 of the American League Championship Series with the Royals playing in Baltimore and the city having been caught by baseball fever. Sporting was certainly playing second fiddle with the whole town enamored with the Royals.
Also happening that night was Late Night at the Phog, a Kansas basketball tradition that drew from the heavy Jayhawk fan base in Kansas City. Landon Donovan's sendoff was also happening that night, so US Soccer fans may have stayed home to watch the legend retire from the team he had left such a mark on.
Sporting Kansas City still sold out, making it to 52 straight sellouts on their way to a 2-0 victory over Chicago and a berth in the playoffs. This night really showed how Sporting can stand out amongst the city's attractions and weren't just a placeholder for the other teams to have success while Sporting got theirs.
The streak didn't even come to an end a few weeks later with a Sunday night match against the New York Red Bulls. This was the season finale, Sporting had already clinched a playoff spot and Sporting were going up against Game 5 of the World Series on a chilly Sunday evening. They still drew enough and sold enough tickets to claim a sellout for this match.
While there were definitely games where the term "sellout" could be disputed based on butts in seats, the fact remains that Sporting had a large enough season ticket base and enough individual and walk-up tickets sold every game to claim a sellout. They averaged above capacity the entire year and experienced a two percent increase in attendance from 2013. Even if butts weren't necessarily in the seats, tickets were sold and Sporting was able to make money off of those tickets to hopefully turn around and continue to improve the club.
It also showed how willing people were to buy in Sporting KC. As the defending champions, it should be expected that Sporting have a large fan base willing to buy in to the club in 2014 but even as they started to falter in the later months, individual tickets were still being sold and people were still supporting the club. There hasn't been any real struggle to measure fan support, such as a couple of consecutive losing seasons, but Sporting did come out of this microcosm of struggle well.
They'll take a 53-game sellout streak into 2015 and it likely will continue to grow. The season ticket base is as strong as ever and, as long as they keep up a winning mentality, the individual tickets will also continue to be bought.