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Kansas City’s original MLS team assesses ascent of US soccer

'We envisioned the MLS would take steps, but something like tonight is special'
1996 the Wiz
Posted at 4:24 PM, Apr 14, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than 70,000 Kansas Citians were at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium Saturday night to see Sporting Kansas City take on Inter Miami.

Fans broke the record for attendance at a soccer match in the Show-Me state with a crowd of 72,610.

While Sporting fell to the star-studded Miami team, led by Lionel Messi, it wasn’t a complete loss.

The original players for Sporting, called the Wiz in 1996, talked about the success of soccer in the U.S. while in attendance.

“We envisioned the MLS would take steps, but something like tonight is special,” said former Wizards player Sean Bowers. “Being out there and even being out on the field before the game and just feeling the electricity on the field and everyone wanting to be down there.”

The club honored both the 1996 and 2004 teams before Saturday night’s match.

“For all of us, whether we retired three years ago or 10 years ago or 15 years ago, it’s been a special night,” said former Wizards player Diego Gutierrez.

The men who were on the field 28 years ago for Kansas City’s first MLS match said they were happy to reconnect with their fellow teammates, adding it could be the start of a player alumni network.

Many plan to return in 2026 when the City of Fountains hosts matches for the World Cup.

“It’s just going to elevate U.S. soccer, both men’s and women’s in the United States,” Bowers said.

Bowers added the creation of the MLS piggybacked off the 1994 World Cup success.

“We are now approaching a momentum that in 2026 is going to climax, and beyond that, we are going to continue to grow,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a great day for MLS and for Kansas City.”

Kansas City will host six FIFA 2026 World Cup matches between June 16 and July 11 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.