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Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi excited for KC to experience ‘indescribable’ World Cup

Graham Zusi, Eden Hazard
Posted at 5:48 PM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 18:48:53-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi knows firsthand what the World Cup experience entails.

He played for the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Zusi was a veteran of MLS play as well as international matches, including World Cup qualifiers, and an MLS Cup champion, but nothing prepared him for the experience of soccer at its highest level.

He said the experience around the quadrennial event is indescribable “until you’re in it and feeling the energy, the excitement.”

Kansas City, which was awarded matches in the 2026 World Cup on Thursday, will find out in four years.

The U.S. team stayed in São Paulo, a sprawling city of 22 million people densely packed with high rises, during the 2014 World Cup.

“When Brazil was playing, it was a ghost town,” Zusi said. “You didn’t see a single soul in the streets. But when Brazil scored, you heard an eruption of sound and celebration. It was a really bizarre but really cool experience to have.”

Sporting KC Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes played for the 1990 U.S. team, which snapped a 40-year-old drought in qualifying for the World Cup in Italy that year.

1990 World Cup
United States forward Peter Vermes, third right, attempts to score against Austrian goalkeeper Klaus Lindenberger, during the first half of the World Cup match in Florence, Italy, on June 19, 1990. Austria defeated the USA 2-1.

“Most people don’t know what’s coming — and what’s coming is the biggest individual sporting event in the world,” Vermes said. “The cultural experience is fantastic. The passion of each team’s fans is just incredible. There’s such a sense of patriotism by everybody for their country, but what brings them all together is soccer. And it’s enjoyment, it’s entertainment. It’s going to be over a month of one big party. It’ll be a tremendous, tremendous time.”

Zusi said he expects Kansas City to “absolutely roll out the red carpet for the visitors that come to experience the games here” and that the city’s signature Midwestern hospitality will shine.

“I’m absolutely thrilled for this city,” Zusi said. “I think it’s so very well-deserved. It’s a big deal for Kansas City to be on the map like this, and there’s no question in my mind that we’ll be a phenomenal host.”

Even rival fans come together in the spirit of “mutual respect and friendship,” brought together by a shared love of soccer, for the World Cup.

“It’s going to be a long four years waiting for it, but hopefully that time will go by quickly and I can’t wait to host that World Cup,” said Zusi, who has played for Sporting KC since 2009.

Kansas City may not be an internationally renowned town, but it had better be ready for its closeup in 2026. The world will be watching — and Vermes suspects KC will shine.

“You’re going to get a lot of people very familiar with Kansas City and what Kansas City has to offer,” Vermes said. “I don’t know a better city to represent the Midwest from a hospitality perspective. This is a great place to live, to come visit, to be a part of.”