Friday, January 31, 2014

R.I.P. KC Brass?

It appears that there is one less soccer team in the KC metro area. Today, the United Soccer League released the schedule for their Premier Development League season. One name absent from the list for the first time since 1997 is the Kansas City Brass.

There'd been rumors towards the end of last year that the Brass would not be returning in the 2014 season. At the time I was skeptical of it, because I'd been lulled into assuming they'd always just be there. With them not appearing on the schedule this year I can assume that they'll join the long list of clubs that have folded in the PDL's history.

Throughout their history, the Brass had rarely been a force in the PDL, only once, in 1998 making the playoffs, and just twice qualifying for the US Open Cup (1998 and 2007) losing both of those games. The club's record all time is below .500, at 89-148-26. Only twice in their history have they finished with a winning record. They have produced a number of professional players, most of which have spent time with the Wizards/Sporting KC. The likes of Ryan Raybould, Will John, Kevin Ellis, and Michael Thomas have all played with the Brass in their career. All KC locals who if the academy had been around at the time would have likely been in KC's academy (save Ellis who was an SKC academy product).

It's a blow for development of players locally in Kansas City. The metro now becomes just the second city with an MLS team but no PDL team, the other is Columbus. I'm counting Provo as a pseudo suburb of Salt Lake.

Now true there are areas nearby for players to play, the likes of Des Moines, Springfield, and St. Louis are all in the Heartland Conference that the Brass played in. But the fact that there won't be a local team in KC is a blow to area KC players and development. Specifically the reason for that has to do with Sporting KC's academy program and producing pro players. Because as I mentioned above, a number of future professionals that grew up in KC played for the Brass at one time or another.

I mentioned, just over two years ago how a number of MLS teams had U23 teams playing in the PDL and how a team could use that as a way to help keep players home grown eligible. Since that post, both San Jose and Montreal are adding PDL teams, and another one (New York) in the NPSL. Then there are the likes of Philadelphia who have a set affiliation with Reading United. It's a development aspect that is lacking in Sporting's development model. They have the academy that has produced the likes of Jon Kempin and Erik Palmer-Brown and they are the reigning MLS Cup champs. But they don't have anything really to fill the gap between players playing in their academy system and playing for the first team. A PDL team with SKC coaches involved would count towards that players availability to eventually be selected as a home grown player for Sporting KC.

In that article a few years ago I mentioned that Sporting should consider buying the Brass's PDL rights as a way to help fill that gap. With the Brass gone, maybe Sporting now comes in and just gets their own franchise into the league. The new stadium at the Swope Park Soccer Village would be the perfect place for a PDL team to play in KC. It's not too large and would create a good environment right in the shadows of where the first team practices. Whether Sporting sees the benefit of it or not is another question.

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