Sporting KC fans call Overland Park native Matt Besler a 'hometown hero'

Sporting KC defender Matt Besler started off as a kid from Overland Park with a big dream. Now he's living it as a professional soccer player in his hometown.

"Back in first grade when we had to write down what we wanted to be, I definitely put down professional soccer player," Besler said. "I was just like any other 5 or 6-year-old kid."

His parents, Greg and Diane Besler, had never played soccer, so the sport was unfamiliar to them. 

"Everyone was playing it, and Matt chose soccer as one of his sports," Diane said. "He started off in kindergarten, so there were 22 kindergartners chasing after the ball."

Diane said it feels like it was just yesterday that she was shuttling him to and from practices and games.

It wasn't long before the trophies and medals started piling up.

After numerous youth championships, Besler lead Blue Valley West High School to a State Championship.  He graduated with a scholarship to play at Notre Dame University, where he became a collegiate All-American.

During each advancement, Besler said playing professionally wasn't his main focus.

"I kind of just focused on the next level," Besler said. "When I was in middle school, I wanted to make the varsity team in high school. When I was in high school, I wanted to get a scholarship to play in college."

Besler said it wasn't until the summer before his senior year at Notre Dame that he knew playing professionally was his next goal.

In January 2009, that goal was reached in what he and his family describe as being the best way possible.

"The day Kansas City went up on the podium and announced my name, that was incredible," Besler said.

"That was really proud moment for Greg and I," Diane added.

Now, Besler starts on the most successful sports team in Kansas City. Sporting KC is currently in first place and hasn't lost a game in over a month. 

His fans call him a hometown hero, and he said playing in front of a crowd of nearly 20,000 at LiveStrong Soccer Park is always a rush.

"It's what I play for," Besler said. "I love the feeling walking out in a packed house in my home town. Doesn't get any better."

The icing on the cake for Besler was his invitation to join the U.S. National Team in its historic victory against Mexico.

"That was another dream come true," Besler said. "I think anyone that plays soccer, one of the ultimate goals is play on your national team and represent your country."

Besler didn't see any playing time in the international match, but Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermis said if Besler keeps up his work ethic, there's a good chance that could change.

"He's a strong consistent player that's become kind of a silent leader on the team," Vermis said.

Vermis described the spreading 'Besler fever' as a pride thing.

"The people around here can say that they're going out to the stadium to watch a guy who grew up playing in this area, in club teams like all their kids are trying to do," Vermis said. "He made it to the top. I think it's a great example of what's possible."

Besler said he would not be where he is in his career without the support and guidance from his parents and coaches.

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