We’ve reached another year and with the new year comes hopes and wishes for how 2022 is going to go. As I’ve done for the past three years here on The Blue Testament and for many years prior on my old site, I am here with my list of wishes for 2022. The list goes through all four professional teams in Kansas City as well as some wishes for the USMNT.
1. Silverware. First on the list each and every year is to bring silverware home to Kansas City. Sporting KC has the makings of a strong returning team again, with additions to complete the roster likely still coming. The US Open Cup returns in 2022 after a two-year hiatus, and that’s been a competition KC has regularly taken seriously under Peter Vermes. The KC Comets meanwhile are in first place in the Central Division heading into the new year and are looking strong. The chance for silverware is there in 2022.
2. No COVID related postponements/cancelations/forfeits in 2022. It’s seriously shocking and disappointing that this is still something that is a concern, but with cancelations and postponements happening in the NHL, NBA, NFL, and MASL in December there certainly have to be concerns about seasons in 2022 being impacted by the pandemic again.
3. More playing time for the kids. In 2021, Sporting got just over 4,300 minutes from players twenty-three or younger. Over half of those minutes were played by players who will not be with the team in 2022. The player under twenty-three with the most minutes who is returning in 2022 is Cam Duke who played just 660 minutes. The youngest player returning who played over 1,000 minutes was Daniel Salloi who turned 25 in 2021. KC was reliant on a veteran, experienced core in 2021, they were especially reliant on players over thirty. I’m not saying just hand these players minutes, they obviously need to earn them, but there needs to be an effort in 2022 to get more time to younger players, whether those already on the roster, or those brought in. Vermes has talked about a team of HomeGrown Players over the years, but he’s not going to get it if those players don’t get any time at this level.
4. Peter Vermes uses more substitutions in 2022. I broke down Peter Vermes’ substitution usage in 2021 back in November. We haven’t gotten word on whether MLS will continue to use five substitutions in 2022 or whether they will go back to the traditional three substitutions, but the hope is that Vermes is going to use more this year. Last year Vermes used less than half his available substitutions. This year, whether the league has three or five substitutions I’ve love for him to be closer to the rest of the league in terms of usage.
5. A U22 initiative player. MLS introduced the U22 initiative last year as a way to increase the investment in young players. If teams have an open DP slot, they would have the ability to sign up to three U22 Initiative players. KC currently has all three DP slots (Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell, and Gadi Kinda) so they would at least have one slot available to use. If one of the players (Russell or Kinda most likely) are under the Max TAM amount ($1,612,500), then KC could have all three slots available. This wish goes back to my third wish about playing the kids. I’ve love to see an investment into building players up both to help the team and to potentially sell those players on to help the club in the future.
6. Double digit goals for Pulido. It’s probably safe to say that the first two years of Alan Pulido’s time in Kansas City hasn’t gone exactly as expected. Over his first two years he’s played less than a full season, making thirty-three appearances, scoring fourteen goals, and adding eight assists. Those aren’t horrible numbers on their own, but when it’s coming from your club record signing player there are certainly concerns. Both years in KC, Pulido has been on pace for double digit goals but call ups and injuries have limited his time. His time as a regular call up for the Mexican national team may be coming to an end, which would make him available more, as long as he can remain healthy. If that happens this is an easily reachable wish.
7. Salloi continues 2021 form, proving to be a consistent goal scorer. This year was a resurgent year for Daniel Salloi with Kansas City. After scoring just one goal in 2019 and 2020 combined and playing just 165 minutes in 2020, Salloi turned in a year that should have at least netted him a spot on the MLS Best XI in 2021. The MVP finalist finished with sixteen goals and eight assists in thirty games. The question will persist though as to whether this year’s and 2018’s Salloi are the real Salloi or whether 2019 and 2020 was. KC shouldn’t necessarily need him to be the club’s leading scorer each year, but if he can contribute ten plus goals and add five plus assists this year it’d certainly help KC dramatically in 2022.
8. Playoff push for the KC Current. Pushing for a championship in year two in Kansas City may be a stretch for the Current but being able to push for and secure a playoff spot shouldn’t. The Current have already made a number of roster moves this offseason to get them ready for a better 2022. The biggest of those moves being the addition of national team member Sam Mewis.
9. The MLS Next Pro League proves to be a successful move for SKCII. Not a lot specifically is known publicly about the new third division that Sporting KC II will be playing in this coming year. That said I have some general thoughts. Originally with SKCII, Vermes had talked about the need for the younger players to go up against players who were battling for their livelihood in the US lower division. He specifically wanted to do it at the highest level possible, the USL Championship. The last few years in the USL haven’t exactly been successful on the field for the club so maybe moving to the new league will allow them to accomplish their goals for developing players combined with some positive results on the field.
10. Comets make push to MASL finals. With their win on New Year’s Eve, the Comets are 5-0 on the season and nine points clear at the top of the MASL Central Division. Obviously, there is still a long way to go in the season but given their spot in the standings and the talent in the team this year, anything less than a trip to the finals is likely a disappointment this year.
11. World Cup qualification for the USMNT. The US sit second of eight teams on fifteen points, one point behind first place Canada, one point ahead of fourth place Mexico and fifth place Panama. The top three teams automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar while fourth place will place the winner of the Oceania Football Confederation for a spot in the World Cup. The US sit six points clear of fifth place Costa Rica. In late January and early February, the US will be hosting seventh place El Salvador and eighth place Honduras with a trip to play Canada on the road in between. The March qualifiers will be much more difficult with trips to play Mexico and Costa Rica sandwiching the last home qualifier against Panama. Qualification is certainly attainable, but it requires the US taking care of their business at home and potentially stealing some points on the road. Two of those road games in locations the US has rarely ever been able to get results.
12. USMNT makes knockout round of Qatar 2022. Obviously the first thing the United States has to do is qualify for the World Cup. Assuming the US makes it, obvious the goal is to at least make the knockout rounds of the tournament. With there still being about eleven months until the tournament kicks off a lot can change, and the draw still needs to take place, but at this point advancement should be the requirement for the US team at the World Cup (ahead of 2018 I would have said the same thing about qualifying for the World Cup though).
13. KC picked to host games as part of the 2026 World Cup. The decision on hosting sites for the 2026 is supposed to be made this year. There are expected to be eleven US cities selected to host games. There are seventeen cities in the United States that have all been visited by FIFA that will be chosen from. I attended a game in Dallas at the 1994 World Cup. It would be an amazing experience to host games in Kansas City this time around.