Archive for Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sporting KC makes most of advantage at new home

July 27, 2011

It was only a month ago that Sporting Kansas City was bracing to open its brand new Major League Soccer stadium: LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.

Tensions were high for numerous reasons: About $200 million had been invested in the new stadium, cyclist Lance Armstrong’s cancer-fighting foundation had stamped its name on the building, and fan interest in the franchise was at an all-time high.

Still, few reasons were bigger than this one: The club was in dead last in the Eastern Conference standings. Sporting KC had won just one game before opening its new digs, and there’s no better way to spray cold water on red-hot fan interest than losing games.

Yes, it was imperative that Sporting Kansas City win — and win immediately — upon opening its new home.

Winning — or at least not losing — is just about all Sporting KC has done at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The squad has had nine matches at home so far, and it is 4-1-4, including a 3-0-3 mark in MLS matches and a tie in an international friendly against Newcastle United of the English Premier League.

The lone loss, a 2-0 setback against the Richmond Kickers on July 12, came in the U.S. Open Cup after a rain delay.

Now, barely a month after suffering at the bottom of the division standings, Sporting Kansas City has surged into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. If the playoffs started today, the club would be in the postseason.

They’ve given fans more to cheer about than a sparkling new stadium.

Fans have packed the stadium on a regular basis to watch their team surge in the standings. Four games have been sold out and seven attracted more than 15,000 fans. Only the two U.S. Open Cup games pulled in a small number, and those were mid-week contests against lower division opponents.

With the turnstiles ticking at a rapid pace, chances are good that fans will continue to pack the stadium and try to help their team make a postseason push.

Eleven of Sporting KC’s final 14 MLS regular season games — including the next eight in a row — take place at home. If the past month is any indication, postseason positioning could be much better and home-field advantage in the playoffs is a realistic possibility.

All of that is good news for Sporting Kansas City as it has quickly created one of the best home-field advantages in Major League Soccer. More importantly, the club is poised to turn a magnificent opening month into a magical season at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.

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