FC Kansas City and Portland Thorns FC will make history on April 13 when they step on the field in the first-ever National Women’s Soccer League match. All eyes will be on Kansas City since it is the only match that day, the rest of the teams start league action the next day. The team considers hosting the inaugural match of the league an honor for Kansas City and the ‘Blues’.
“We are really excited and honored that the league selected us to do it, being a brand new franchise,” FC Kansas City president Brian Budzinski said. ”When you have a lot of former WPS and WUSA teams in there, really only three new clubs in us, Portland and Seattle, so for us to get selected is really a testament to the job our front office and ownership group has done as far as the NWSL trusting us with that responsibility for the first game.”
FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski is also excited for the challenge of opening league play against “the team to beat,” a Portland squad stacked with the likes of US striker Alex Morgan and Canadian forward Christine Sinclair.
“As much as it puts pressure, it’s also motivation for me personally and hopefully motivation for the team,” he said.
“It definitely makes it a little harder because all eyes are going to be on us.”
This is not the first time the FC Kansas City staff has had this pressure. The Missouri Comets and the Blues share the same front office staff and most of them went through a big opening day for their team previously.
“Three years ago when we launched the Comets, we did the first game that year as well,” explained Budzinski. “We told the league that we wanted to play Milwaukee, the defending champ that year as well. We wanted to kick off with Portland this year. There is good stress and pressure and anxiety, that is what we are in this thing for. All those good emotions, energy and excitement to make sure that you perform because literally we know the world is going to be watching that game.”
No venue change
Even before the Blues knew they were the opening act for the entire league, there had been much speculation and some serious talk that the first game for FC Kansas City might be played at Sporting Park, home of MLS’ Sporting Kansas City. With room for more than 18,500, it would have been able to seat more fans and provide a soccer venue that has quickly become one of the best in the country.
FC Kansas City would not have wanted to play every game at Sporting Park and risk good crowds looking tiny like the Kansas City Wizards did in Arrowhead Stadium not too many years ago, but playing the opening match there held a lot of appeal. There was a report that it would cost FC Kansas City $10,000 to rent Sporting Park but sources within the club place that figure as high as five-times that price and it would have required revenue sharing as well. The Blues could have rented Arrowhead for significantly less so the game will remain at their home stadium at Shawnee Mission District Stadium.