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The location of America’s new soccer capital may surprise you

Adam Glanzman
Kansas has rallied around Sporting KC since their relocation from Missouri.
By mchamberlainqz
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

On game day, the stadium bursts into full color. Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, is a soaring architectural marvel, a venue envied by soccer-loving cities worldwide. But you can’t fully appreciate the building without feeling the atmosphere inside it when the hometown team, Sporting Kansas City, emerges from the tunnel and the crowd erupts.

“It never gets old,” says Matt Besler, the star Sporting KC defender and men’s national team player. “I get butterflies every time.”

It wasn’t always this way. “The stadium changed everything,” Besler says.

Since it opened in 2011, Children’s Mercy Park has become a catalyst and a symbol of a major groundswell of hometown pride in KCK—Kansas City, Kansas. Citi, the leading global bank, has played a pivotal role in this renaissance.

The stadium is one component of Village West, a sprawling entertainment and retail complex that has provided a jolt of economic development to the city and region in the last 15 years. Citi not only helped finance the soccer stadium but has also been on board as an indispensable ally since the beginning of the broader project, when the prospects were very much uncertain.

Carol Marinovich, a former mayor of KCK, was one of the driving forces behind the development. “To accomplish major things, a person can’t do it alone,” Marinovich says. “It’s extremely important to have financial partners, such as Citi, who believe in that same vision and are willing to work with you to accomplish that.”

If you can somehow score tickets to a Sporting KC home game—the team has drawn more than 80 consecutive sellout crowds to the stadium—it’ll be obvious that Marinovich’s vision has been realized. The team’s most diehard fans, the KC Cauldron, fill the stands behind each goal, a roiling mass of face-painted hometown spirit draped in the team’s blue, gray, and white colors. For 90 minutes, while the players compete, the Cauldron jumps, sings, and chants. This is the soccer community in Kansas City, Kansas, in the house that was built for it.

With the success of Sporting KC in its new home, soccer has become a keystone of local pride and identity in a place that was often overlooked and a little adrift a couple of decades back. Arriving next—also with help from Citi—is the National Training and Coaching Development Center, currently being built just down the road. The facility is designed to be a national home for soccer, with investments focused on advancing player and coaching development and moving the sport forward on a global scale. US Soccer has agreed to a 20-year lease at the state-of-the-art center, earning Kansas City, KS the right to call itself the soccer capital of America.

Matt Besler knows the area well. He grew up just down the road in Overland Park and says he never could have foreseen just how big a deal soccer has become in the region. Across the city, formerly little-used tennis courts have been converted to popular mini-soccer futsal fields. Youth programs have higher participation levels than ever before. And the Cauldron in Children’s Mercy Park keeps getting louder.

This article was produced on behalf of Citi by Quartz creative services and not by the Quartz editorial staff.

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