Soccer in Kansas City has never been more popular and successful than the last few years. Sporting Kansas City booming after the rebrand and winning the MLS Cup, FC Kansas City winning the NWSL Cup in their second year and even the Comets winning it all indoors has been great for the region. Even better has been that all three teams have relied on local players to play key roles.
This is a look at three Kansas City area women who are making an impact on the game in some way today.
FC Kansas City's Shea Groom playing for the U23's in Spain
Shea Groom, a player that both head coach Vlatko Andonovski and assistant coach Huw Williams knew very well, was FC Kansas City's first pick in the 2015 NWSL draft. Groom had won a state championship at Liberty and played for them with the Kansas City ECNL team.
Groom closed out her college career starting all 26 matches in her senior year for the Texas A&M Aggies where she led the SEC and was ranked third in the nation with seven game-winning goals and seven assists and made it to the NCAA semifinals.
Now as a warm up for her first year as a pro in the NWSL, Groom is with the U.S. U23 team in Spain for a six-team invitational tournament. The talented attacker went the full 90 Thursday in a 1-0 victory over Japan but Saturday's performance was even better. The Aggie from Kansas City scored in the 42nd minute and if that was not enough, Shea also set up the insurance goal in the 70th to lock away the win for the United States over Norway.
This is the second time she went with the U23's for this tournament, having played last year also.
It looks like she will be ready when the Blues open camp soon.
Dorian Bailey to North Carolina
A very talented player from St. Teresa's, Bailey has been honored about as much as a high school kid in Missouri can. She started appearing for the U.S. when she was just 14 and has even played for the U20's already.
Earlier this month, Bailey signed her National Letter of Intent to play for the University of North Carolina, easily the most storied women's soccer program in the country. While North Carolina is well known for basketball, legendary hoops coach Dean Smith knew which Tar Heel sport was the most dominate. "This is a women's soccer school," the late Dean Smith declared. "We're just trying to keep up with them."
The Tar Heels have made 26 finals and won 21 of the 31 NCAA women's championships, all under head coach Anson Dorrance. According to North Carolina coaches, Bailey is the first woman from Kansas City to be recruited to their soccer team.
When asked why they recruited Bailey, coach Dorrance responded. "I loved her technical platform, her comfort level on the ball, her willingness to beat people 1v1 and her versatility (the ability to play multiple positions). Also from her youth national team coaches I heard she has wonderful character and even at their level she was VERY GOOD IN POSSESSION. I also really appreciated the recruiting relationship we developed with her and her father. They are obviously a classy family; just the kind of people we want representing the University of North Carolina and our women's soccer program."
Furthering Kansas City's reputation, Bailey now has the opportunity to play for the winningest college coach, one that has produced numerous national team and professional players in his career.
Parker Roberts staying in Kansas
Parker Roberts is perhaps the more intriguing player on this short list in that she may be the leader in changing the future of a college program.
Currently Roberts has been called up to the U20 national team as they head to Spain to play in a tournament also.
Roberts, the 2014 Gatorade player of the year for state of Kansas, was heavily recruited by a number of good programs. She initially committed to the University of Miami but after a coaching change, there was an opportunity to change her mind.
Last fall, the KC Metro Dynamos, Roberts' club team went to the new University of Kansas soccer facility to play the Jamaican women's team when they were in the area preparing for CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Derek Shoare, the Dynamos head coach feels that game gave Roberts a chance to reevaluate staying closer to home.
Coach Shoare understandably has a high opinion of Roberts. When asked to describe her, Shoare quickly lists a few of Roberts' qualities. "Outstanding athlete, best athlete I've coached in 27 years. Well-grounded, humble, barely told anyone that she was selected for the national team. A team leader, the game is more about the team than about her individual performance and that will bode well for her as she goes through her career."
The Kansas Jayhawks had a very good regular season last year. The Jayhawks set records and were nationally ranked before flaming out against old rivals Missouri in the NCAA tournament. That success, the new facilities and being able to stay where family and friends can see her play may have all played a part in Robert's decision to commit to Kansas.
One thing the Jayhawks have not done well in the past was recruit the best Kansas City area players. Kansas did recruit them but the best local talent would play for other Big 12, SEC and schools even further away rather than stay near home.
With the new facility and a player of Parker Roberts ability staying home, it could and should lead the way for other area women to stay nearby. "KU is going to do well and recruit the better players," Coach Shoare predicted. "Parker is going to be the start of that since she is in my opinion the best player in Kansas at her age."
A natural holding mid that can also play center back well enough to be called up to play for her country? A natural leader who worries about making the rest of her team better? A great athlete?
Yes. Kansas got a great recruit to help them build their program to the next level and keep it there. Now Kansas can only hope that other top players will decide there is no place like home.