Sporting Kansas City is an American professional soccer club based in Kansas City, Missouri, and currently playing in Kansas City, Kansas. The club is presently a member of the Western Conference of Major League Soccer (MLS). The club is one of the ten charter clubs of MLS, having competed in the league since it began play in 1996. The team was co-founded by Ron Bishop and Josh Whisenhunt in 1995.
For the majority of their existence, the franchise were known as the Kansas City Wizards. The team was rebranded in November 2010, coinciding with its move to a new stadium, Sporting Park. The club won both the MLS Cup and the MLS Supporters' Shield in 2000, and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2004 and 2012. In 2013, the club again won the MLS Cup, its first since rebranding.
The Kansas City MLS franchise was founded by Lamar Hunt, who was also the founder of the American Football League, the Kansas City Chiefs, the United Soccer Association, and Major League Soccer. The Kansas City Wiz played their first game on April 13, 1996, defeating the Colorado Rapids at Arrowhead Stadium, 3-0. The Wiz players included Preki, Mo Johnston and Digital Takawira, and were coached by Ron Newman. The team finished 5th in the 1996 regular season with a 17–15 record, qualifying for the first ever MLS Playoffs. In the 1996 conference semi-finals, the Wiz beat the Dallas Burn in three games, winning the final game in a shootout, before losing the conference final to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Following the 1996 season, the Wiz changed names, becoming the "Wizards". For the 1997 MLS season, their record was 21–11; they won the Western Conference regular season championship. Preki was named 1997 MLS MVP. In the first round of the playoffs, the Wizards lost to the last-seeded Colorado Rapids. The Wizards had losing records for the 1998 and 1999 seasons, finishing last in the Western Conference both years. The Wizards fired Ron Newman early during the 1999 season, and replaced him with Bob Gansler. The Wizards finished the 1999 season with a record of 8–24, which put them in last place in the Western Conference once again.
Sporting Park (formerly Livestrong Sporting Park) is a soccer-specific stadium in Kansas City, Kansas, US, and is the home of Sporting Kansas City. The stadium was renamed in January 2013 after the Livestrong Foundation and Sporting Kansas City ended their agreement. The stadium is located near Kansas Speedway and it opened during the 2011 season of Major League Soccer on June 9, 2011 with a match against the Chicago Fire. The stadium has a seating capacity of 18,467 seats, which can expand to 25,000 for concerts. The stadium is Sporting Kansas City's third home venue; then known as the Kansas City Wizards, the team played in Arrowhead Stadium from 1996 to 2007 and CommunityAmerica Ballpark from 2008 to 2010. In 2013, the stadium hosted the MLS All-Star Game, the United States men's national soccer team, and the MLS Cup, three of the most prestigious matches in the United States, and is the only stadium to host all three in the same year.
Originally, Sporting Club, the team's ownership group, planned to move to southeast Kansas City, Missouri on land previously occupied by Bannister Mall. The redevelopment plan, called The Trails, was passed on December 13, 2007. The last package of economic incentives, a $30-million tax rebate, was passed on November 21, 2008.
The stadium's planned site had been demolished to prepare the site for infrastructure. It was intended to open in 2011 with a capacity of 18,500 seats. However, fallout from the 2008–2009 financial crisis placed the project on hiatus, and the stadium developer eventually sought to move the new project near the Village West retail center in Kansas City, Kansas, near the Kansas Speedway and CommunityAmerica Ballpark. The developer of The Trails complex sought additional "enhancements" (i.e., borrowing authority) from Kansas City, Missouri, to finance the building of the soccer stadium and its associated amateur soccer complex. However, the city was unwilling to provide the desired financing, leading the developer to seek a new site across the state line.