Last week we reported on the news out of Great Britain that Sporting Kansas City had turned down a $500,000 transfer fee during the summer transfer window from Israeli champions Hapoel Be'er Sheva for the services of attacking midfielder Benny Feilhaber. This week, Major League Soccer is adding to that report by sharing news from Feilhaber himself that there has also been interest from other clubs in other leagues, including Mexico's Liga MX, where several high-profile MLS players like Omar Gonzalez and Erick "Cubo" Torres have transferred to of late.
If we are to take Benny's "there's not anything on the table" statement at face value, it does not sound like there has been a formal contract offer made to him yet, but the fact that Benny is revealing that fact as opposed to resorting to the "I'm just focused on doing my best right now" boilerplate that athletes often resort to during contract discussions is quintessentially Benny. And because Benny is pretty honest with the media, often brutally so--just ask Jurgen Klinsmann--we can probably indeed take him at his word that there are multiple clubs expressing interest in his signature.
What does this mean for Sporting Kansas City and its fans? On the one hand, expressing that there is interest from as-yet unnamed clubs is basic contract negotiations 101. As we have noted here previously, Benny turns 32 in January and is almost certainly in line for his last big contract as a pro soccer player. He is raising a family and has a vested interest in providing for them as best as he possibly can, whether that means a move overseas or leveraging that overseas interest into a larger salary to continue with Sporting.
On the other hand, Benny turning 32 is a part of a larger trend of the club's core getting older and older. Of Sporting's defensive regulars, only left back Jimmy Medranda is younger than 25. Up top, things are a little better, with Diego Rubio, Connor Hallisey, and Cameron Porter all still whippersnappers even by pro sports standards. But the central midfield where Benny plays may be where Sporting is the oldest. Benny is 31, Roger Espinoza is 29, Paulo Nagamura is 33, and center back-defensive midfield hybrid Lawrence Olum is 32.
This aging of the squad is compounded by Sporting's recent inability to draft quality talent. Not a single draftee from the 2013, 2014, or 2016 SuperDrafts (or Supplemental Draft, in the case of 2013) remains on the roster, and of the three class of 2015 draftees, Amadou Dia has already been dealt for the aforementioned Porter.
Meanwhile, ever since Sporting's dramatic 2013 MLS Cup title, the club has mostly been treading water with midtable finishes and one-and-out playoff appearances, first against the New York Red Bulls in 2014 and then against the Portland Timbers in 2015. If the Sporks had shown some progress compared to those two campaigns, then I could well imagine seeing Vermes and co. deciding that keeping Benny around is worth sizable salary bump despite the age of the squad.
But because such progress hasn't been shown in 2016--and the acquisitions of younger projects in midfield like Emmanuel Appiah and Benji Joya seem to point in this direction--it would be far less surprising to see the club decide to cut its losses, deal several of its pricey veterans during the offseason, and begin building for a new cycle. Sadly, such an approach almost certainly means the end to a happy and productive Benny Feilhaber era in Kansas City. But given even odds, it is the outcome that I would be betting on.