[Editor: The one perk of being married to me, is my wife has access to a platform many people don’t. The following is a guest piece written by my spouse, Sheena Smith, about why you should travel to see Sporting KC in the preseason in Arizona. — Chad Smith]
As an avid Sporting Kansas City fan who lives in the wrong state, I’m fortunate that pre-season is in the right state, Arizona, where I reside! If you’ve never made the journey to the desert for some preseason action, this is the year to do it!
My husband, daughter, and I have been fortunate enough to see Sporting Kansas City play here for years. Up until last year they played down in Tucson, Arizona, but now the time is split between Phoenix and Tucson.
Reasons to Come to Arizona
If you’re not familiar with Phoenix, well, it’s a desert. I wouldn’t recommend visiting in the Summer but February during preseason is the time to visit and here’s why.
While Kansas City is typically cold, the average temperature for Phoenix is a breezy 72 degrees. That alone should be a reason to visit.
While your family and friends are bundled up inside, brag about your perfect vacation. Some of the most notable outdoor activities are hiking, golfing, shopping at the outdoor malls, and of course, watching our favorite boys in blue.
KC is known for it’s BBQ but Phoenix is known for their mexican food and pizza. Indulge in true fashion at some of the best restaurants in the valley.
If you have the time, stay for a week and a half and catch the Kansas City Royals Spring Training opening day, which is Saturday, February 23rd.
The Grand Canyon
This year The Grand Canyon celebrates its 100th year of being a National Park and while it’s a three and half hour drive up north, if you’re in Arizona you should check it out, it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
So now that you have a quick glimpse into why you should visit Arizona let me explain why preseason is a unique experience.
Reasons to Come See Preseason
Our first preseason game, I was very new to the soccer world. “How new,” you may be wondering? We met Dom Dwyer, and I posted a picture of my husband and daughter to Facebook with the caption “Chad, Avery, and some adorable Sporting Kansas City player.”
Things have changed since then, but how often in professional sports do you casually meet players? The access you have to players in preseason is unlike the regular season. While I prefer being in Phoenix, if you can see a Sporting game in Tucson, it’s a smaller stadium which means more time with your favorite players.
Last year when we saw Sporting play against Phoenix Rising FC, a USL Championship team. The Phoenix Rising fans came out, but it felt more like a home game for them which meant the Sporting players didn’t hang out long to socialize, sign autographs, or take pictures. In comparison, when visiting in Tucson, you get more time with the players. Granted not all of them come over to meet the fans, but I’ve met a good portion of the players. Well, who am I kidding, I get starstruck and admire from a distance.
The other fascinating aspect of attending a preseason game is I feel like an investigator in a sense. I’m able to pick up on things you won’t notice during a regular season game. For example, you can here Peter Vermes yelling in the stands, with less crowd noise you pick up on his cues, who he’s yelling at, etc. One year, I discovered how much the team relies on Seth Sinovic as a leader, something I didn’t necessarily gather watching games.
I’ve also been able to spot injuries, another year Jacob Peterson was injured during a scrimmage, and we’ve also been able to get a sense of who may not be making it to the first game of the season based on who isn’t playing or in attendance in Phoenix. The year Nemeth was traded away we noticed he wasn’t at preseason which started our speculation. You can be aware and draw speculation of who Vermes likes and who may be starting when the season begins. Although, there have also been times Chad and I have speculated things and been entirely wrong.
To me, it’s an experience unlike any other sporting event, and it’s part of the reason I’ve gotten so into soccer. The players are always appreciative of the fans who have traveled to watch them.
A Few Additional Things to Know
- You can fly directly from Kansas City to Mesa, AZ on Allegiant Air for decent prices.
- It will be cheaper to fly into Phoenix than Tucson. The two cities are about an hour and a half from each other, all interstate driving.
- If you visit, a few food recommendations are: Cibo, Pizzeria Bianco, La Grande Orange, Federal Pizza, Hop Doddy, Joyride Tacos, Barrio Queen, Carolina’s Mexican (which I’ve never had but it usually tops the list of Mexican food), and if you can’t quit BBQ then you MUST try Little Miss BBQ, which is the only BBQ joint that will temporarily turn me from a vegetarian to a meat eater. Also, shout out to Char Bar in KC that also turned into a two-minute meat eater with their chicken tenders [Editor: I tried to get her to eat the delicious burnt ends but she wasn’t having it].
Overall, any dedicated Sporting Kansas City fan should trek it to Phoenix for a unique soccer experience.