Sporting Legends was launched in 2013 to pay tribute to individuals who played a vital role to Sporting Kansas City and the growth of soccer throughout the midwest and providing a platform for inductees to reconnect with the Kansas City soccer community.
It currently has nine inductees with Mo Johnston being this year’s most recent inductee. Following Johnson’s induction, it got us thinking: who on the current roster could be a future Sporting Legend? Here is our top five picks:
1. Matt Besler:
Drafted by the Kansas City Wizards in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, this club’s captain and Kansas City native has become a regular staple of Sporting KC’s backline, earning over 250 appearances in all competitions. He has started 217 of his 223 MLS appearances, including playoffs and has three career goals.
Besler was first called up to the United States Men’s National Team in 2012, however his official debut did not come until January 2013. In 2014, he would become the first Kansan to play on the world’s largest stage, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, appearing in four games. With 39 caps, 1 goal and 1 assist, Matt developed into a key player for the squad and has also featured at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
Over the years, Besler has become a well-decorated player having earned multiple honors including: MLS Best XI (2012, 2013), MLS All-Star (2011, 2013-16), MLS Defender of the Year (2012) and MLS Breakout Player of the Year (2012) and was named the 2014 KC Sportsman of the Year by the Kansas City Sports Commission. Including, being named Sporting KC Defender of the Year honors four times (2011-13, 15).
Although, Besler has contributed a great deal to the club over the years, fans will most likely remember the left-footed defender, for having a great personality both on and off the pitch and his community involvement. Besler will make a perfect a contender for Sporting Legends in the years to come.
2. Dom Dwyer:
Since being drafted by Sporting KC in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, Dom has tallied 57 goals for the club. Dwyer made his MLS debut on Sept. 1, 2012 against Toronto FC and spent time with the Reserve League matches appearing in nine matches.
For the first half of the 2013 season, Dwyer was on-loan to USL PRO affiliate Orlando City SC. He quickly became a fan-favorite in Orlando when he scored 22 goals for the former team. After his loan ended, Dwyer returned to Sporting KC where he scored another four goals that same season in all competitions.
Born and raised in England, Dwyer made a major impact on the club with a breakout 2014 campaign in which he garnered Sporting KC Offensive Player of the Year and co-MVP honors, including setting a single-season club record with 24 goals in all competitions, ranking second in the MLS. He was also named to the 2014 MLS All-Star roster for the first time.
Dwyer would again finish the 2015 campaign strong with a team-high 17 goals in all competitions, along with three assists. In 2016 he tallied 16 MLS goals, becoming the first player in team history to reach 12 goals in three straight regular seasons. This earned him Sporting KC’s Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot winner honors.
This season, Dwyer continues to amaze fans having tallied 5 goals with one assist. Plus, he is working towards making an USMNT appearance after being granted U.S. citizenship earlier this year. If he continues to stay on track, I believe Dom could make a suitable contender for the Sporting Legends.
3. Benny Feilhaber:
It’s the Benny Feilhaber show!
Before arriving in the United States for MLS in 2011, Benny had a long successful career overseas starting with Hamburg in Germany. He then moved to Derby County and ended his European stint with Denmark's AGF Aarhus where he spent two seasons before signing with the MLS.
Feilhaber signed with Sporting KC in 2013 and become one of the club’s most productive midfielders. Feilhaber finished a successful 2016 campaign with eight goals and 14 assists in all competitions, becoming the second player in team history to reach double digits in assists in multiple regular seasons.
Starting in 2008, Benny was a member of the U.S. 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2008 Olympic Team. He has appeared in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, earning his first start in 2012 and recorded 43 caps with the USMNT. Following a three-year drought, the talented midfielder was called into action again earlier this year on Jan. 29 as a second-half substitute in a 0-0 draw against Serbia.
Aside from playing for both club and country, Benny will also be remembered for his charismatic personality and for his dancing on the The Benny Feilhaber show with co-host — former teammate — Sal Zizzo. So much dancing and lip-syncing. Hopefully, one day Benny can moonwalk his way into the Hall of Honors.
4. Graham Zusi:
The hairstyle the pitch will never forget.
The nine-year veteran began his professional career in Kansas City and has contributed 26 goals during his time with the club. Zusi made his breakout career in 2011 when he secured a starting spot and notched five goals and seven assists, a team high for assis the newly rebranded club.
In 2012, Zusi was invited to United States Men’s National Team’s 2012 January camp in preparation for two friendlies, which he went on to start both matches and scored the lone goal in the win over Panama. He would earn five more starts for the rest of the campaign. Graham would have the chance to play alongside with Sporting KC teammates Matt Besler and Benny Feilhaber, when the trio was called up in 2013. Zusi’s most notable appearances are in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Copa America Centenario. To date, Graham has earned 46 caps, 5 goals and 6 assists.
His most notable goal would come later that year when the midfielder scored the stoppage-time goal against Panama to tie the game, helping Mexico qualify for the 2014 World Cup. By the next morning, he was appropriately named “San Zusi“ in Mexico.
Zusi has amassed a great following and will be remembered for not only his perfect man bun, but for his constant community involvement and delivering excellent performances while in his prime.
5. Roger Espinoza:
The hard-working Honduran star began his professional career in Kansas City after being selected 11th overall in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft and would become a central midfield staple for the club.
In 2012, Roger became an MLS All-Star and helped Sporting KC win the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup before moving abroad to England for Wigan Athletic. He made 57 appearances in all competitions and played the full 90 minutes in Wigan's historic 2013 FA Cup final win over Manchester City, making him one of only two players in MLS history to have appeared in the finals and won both the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and FA Cup.
Kansas City fans welcomed Espinoza back when he returned to Sporting KC in January 2015, becoming one of only three players currently under contract with MLS to have appeared in an Olympic Games and two or more FIFA World Cups. Upon his return, Espinoza was quick to get back into action making 17 starts, scored one goal and recorded a career-high four assists during the 2015 campaign.
This Honduran star has earned 52 caps and 4 goals for the Honduras National Team. Roger was first called up to the national team in 2009 and has continued to be called into action for multiple appearances throughout the years. His most notable appearances include: 2009 and 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup(s), 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup(s).
Entering his 8th season with the club, the midfielder has garnered a sizable following both domestically and internationally. Off the pitch, Roger is known for his work with local organizations: Unbound and the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City. As Roger continues to have long successful career both in KC and abroad, it will earn him a chance to have his name adorned in the Hall of Honors alongside the club’s icons upon retirement.