As the end of the 2012 calendar year ticks ever-closer to its last breaths, we take one final, reminiscent look at the year and season that was 2012 for Sporting Kansas City. There's no more worthy candidate for Moment of the Year than Sporting KC claiming the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, so we'll do something a little more proactive and look towards the upcoming 2013 season and forecast what we might still be talking about a year from now.
2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park - Head coach Peter Vermes has made no secret since 2011 that this tournament is a competition he desires to participate in and conquer, so after falling just a game short of qualification for the 2012 version, he'll be more than happy to be taking part in the upcoming rendition. Champions League group play begins in very early July.
The biggest question: how will fans receive "those crazy North and Central American night at LSP?" CCL isn't likely to be included in season ticket holder packages, and just one of the two home group games, if so. Will fans grasp the importance of a continental competition and pack the house like ever league game? Will Vermes field full strength teams? Can they qualify by winning their group and advancing to the knockout portion, to be played in early 2014?
The quest to reach the MLS Cup final - If Sporting could have come up against any team in the Eastern Conference playoffs the last two years not named the Houston Dynamo, they would have likely been "two-time MLS Cup finalists Sporting Kansas City," and very possibly "one- or two-time MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City," if not for an all-time MLS great side Los Angeles Galaxy.
But, alas, it were those pesky Dynamo doing again in 2012 what they did in 2011 - celebrating on the field at LSP after the final whistle, while Sporting were bounced from the playoffs prematurely two years running. When it comes to crunch time in November, will new Designated Player Claudio Bieler be the missing link? Can Vermes exercise his Dom Kinnear-shaped demon?
Contending with KC's other summer team, the Kansas City Royals - Many thanks for the supersonic rise of Sporting KC within the Kansas City sports scene can be forwarded to 1 Royal Way, Attn: Glass, David. They've been dreadful for the entirety of my own life (near two-and-a-half decades now), but for 2013, there's good reason to believe they'll be vastly improved, maybe even a playoff contender. With the Royals, a team hugely adored by KC's baseball-crazy community again in the fold, will former Royals defectors once again find themselves at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday nights in May, June, July and August?
The moniker of "Kansas City's only winning team" has been tossed around freely for two years now in regards to Sporting. Once that's no longer true, and the Royals - let's face it, a team with a much bigger base of fandom and roots deeply entrenched in the city - are competitive once again, what percentage of fans that turned out for a soccer game the last two years might find themselves watching nine innings instead? Not an overly worrying subject, but definitely something to keep an eye on.
But do remember, the 2012 US Open Cup wouldn't have been on this list a calendar year ago. What will be your biggest 2013 Sporting KC storyline/memory?