Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake meet for MLS Cup

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — One of the participants in the MLS championship game went through a long-term rebuilding project under new ownership, complete with a rebranding of the organization, construction of a $200 million stadium, and the revitalization of soccer in the surrounding community.

The other participant went through a rebuilding project that took about a month.

Sporting Kansas City, which languished as the Wizards for years, will be playing for its second MLS Cup at glitzy Sporting Park on Saturday when it faces Real Salt Lake, a club that jettisoned a bunch of proven veterans in the offseason in a push to go younger.


It’s the first time that Kansas City, once a soccer wasteland and now a hotbed for the sport, has hosted the league’s title game. When the Wizards won their only championship in 2000, the finale was played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

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‘‘We’ve made such a turnaround in all aspects of the club,’’ said Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes, who played on that 2000 team.

Tickets for the MLS Cup were snapped up in a matter of minutes, which is hardly surprising. The club sold out every game this season, turning Sporting Park into a must-visit destination.

Real Salt Lake has been a big deal in Utah for a while.

The club, which played its inaugural season in 2005, has qualified for the playoffs six straight years, the best active streak in the league. Four of those seasons, Real Salt Lake advanced to the conference finals, and in 2009 it beat the Los Angeles Galaxy to win the MLS Cup.


Last December, Real Salt Lake parted with eight regulars — among them, Will Johnson was sent to Portland, and Jamison Olave and Fabian Espindola to New York — and replaced them with less expensive alternatives.