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Fútbol Meets Football: Kansas City Welcomes Messi with Record Crowd at Arrowhead

It's no secret that the football GOAT resides in Kansas City, that being the man, the myth, the legend, Patrick Mahomes, but the city welcomed another type of football GOAT this past weekend when Inter Miami came to town to face off against Sporting Kansas City. Inter Miami has a certain player, you may have heard of him, by the name of Lionel Messi. I'll let his Wikipedia page do the talking, as there are too many individual and team accolades to list. The point being is this, when Messi shows up in your city, you show out, and Kansas City showed out. A crowd of 72,610 came to watch the Argentinian soccer superstar play against the home team, where Messi's squad came away with a tightly played victory 3-2 over SKC, which included a goal from the man himself. A top-shelf ringer from about 25 yards out. While the match did matter, what surrounded the match mattered more, and not just Messi's almost ethereal presence. Let me explain.



Kansas City's Thriving Soccer Culture

Yes, Messi's presence in the USA has produced massive amounts of fanfare and press coverage, even when he's already been here for basically a year to this point. However, how Kansas City showed up for his appearance I think is more important, at least in the grand scheme of the city. Many US cities have already been graced with Messi's presence, but no one has shown out for him as KC did. The crowd that attended the game, which could only be held at Arrowhead due to the crowd size, was the 2nd largest soccer crowd in the world that day, when Premier League, Bundesliga, and other highly touted matches were played. It was the 4th largest in MLS history, and the biggest in Sporting KC history.



Kansas City showed this past weekend that this city cares a LOT about soccer, which is very encouraging given the doubts that were received when Kansas City was selected for a 2026 World Cup site. Some still have their reservations about Kansas City being counted among the "major cities" in the US due to its proximity to the United States's most barren landscapes, also known as "flyover country." However, sports has helped switch the opinions of many, with the Chiefs winning three Super Bowls in five years, the Big 12 Tournament being hosted here, the Royals going to back-to-back World Series, the Kansas Jayhawks winning multiple NCAA Basketball Championships, and Sporting winning MLS Cups. The World Cup was simply the cherry on top to signify just how far this city has come over the last 30 years.


This was the main reason, I believe, why Kansas City was chosen, was the thriving sports culture here. Specifically, though, Kansas City has a thriving soccer culture. VisitKC.com calls the city the "Soccer Capital of America", and for good reason. Sporting Kansas City and KC Current both have huge youth and developmental programs, held out at Swope Soccer Village which is one of the largest soccer complexes in the nation. Children's Mercy Park has held many MLS and college soccer events, including multiple MLS All-Star games, NCAA Championships, the US Open Cup, and others. Kansas City is also home to the first-ever women's professional soccer-specific stadium in the United States and one of the first of its kind in the world in CPKC Stadium. You can read more on just how huge soccer is in Kansas City here.


Why This Game Was So Important

This game officially displayed Kansas City's soccer culture on the world stage for the first time. Messi has one of the largest international followings of any athlete if not the largest, so having him in the city brings a lot of attention. In the case of Kansas City, this attention may have been much needed to make sure that when the World Cup does come here, people know that the destination to be in is Kansas City. At first, I really didn't understand why Sporting Kansas City was holding an opponent in such high regard.



Yes, it's Messi, but frankly, did Atletico Madrid give him this much fanfare and attention? Did any of the NFL teams that Brady or Mahomes faced give him this kind of attention? No, but then it hit me. This wasn't about Messi per se, but rather using Messi's huge following to put the city on full display. This was about opening up Kansas City to the international stage for the first time to many, and those in charge of the event absolutely killed it. The FANS killed it by showing up. Kansas City is on the world stage to stay, and the World Cup coming here is going to prove that. I am beyond excited for it!


Burn Notice: 10/10 Messi y Sporting KC estan en fuego!!!

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