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Sporting KC Notebook: Espinoza talks MLS perception overseas; Vermes on Bradley bid; and more

Roger Espinoza Sporting Kansas City 82

Photo courtesy of Gary Rohman/Sporting Kansas City


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Roger Espinoza left Major League Soccer in November 2012. However, Major League Soccer did not leave him.

While at Wigan Athletic, playing in both the English Premier League and Championship over the past two seasons, Espinoza was regularly probed about MLS. He spoke about the high interest from English players Tuesday as he was reintroduced as a member of Sporting Kansas City.

“Every week, every week,” Espinoza emphasized, “they’d ask me, ‘How’s it there? How’s this club, how’s this place?’ I’d just explain how it is and how good it is.”

But after the interest, according to Espinoza, came hesitation. Hesitation because of the league’s current $3.1 million salary cap per team, a limitation to many who want to make the jump.

“A lot of players want to come to MLS,” Espinoza said. “The salary cap makes it very difficult. Everyone wants a good lifestyle, everyone wants to take care of their families. Having too many of them here would destroy the salary cap. I think that’s stopping them from coming here. If it wasn’t (for) that, I guarantee a lot more would be here.”

The current MLS collective bargaining agreement expires on Jan. 31. The league and its Players Union recently wrapped up initial talks that included player salaries and the overlapping salary cap.

Espinoza hopes that a new CBA can begin to pave the way for more players to enter the league from England and beyond.

“Hopefully the league can work something out with the Players Union,” Espinoza said. “I think it’s very possible. You can see how the league has grown. It’s time for the players to gain some ground, especially the players who’ve needed it the most over the years — young players.”

The average salary in MLS this past season was $207,831. The median salary was $91,827. Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes recently told SBI that he has an “idea” of what he wants for the new salary cap, but would not offer specifics.

Here are more Sporting KC notes:


Almost one year to the day, AS Roma announced that Michael Bradley was leaving Serie A for MLS. Though he eventually joined Toronto FC, a number of other MLS clubs pursued the U.S. Men’s National Team star, including Sporting KC.

In an interview with SBI, Peter Vermes discussed the talks with Bradley and where his club was positioned in possibly landing the talented midfielder.

“I spoke with his agent, and I spoke with Michael personally,” Vermes said. “We came in at a time when negotiating was still going on, but it seemed that their compass was already pointing at Toronto.

“I thought that we made a very serious run at the opportunity, but obviously the outcome, as we know, he’s in Toronto. He was definitely a player that we were extremely interested in. Sometimes not every deal goes your way.

“As an organization, though we’re a small market, our club and our ownership group were up for the opportunity. That piece was a great message.”

Sporting KC lifted their bid for Bradley as high as $40 million before Toronto FC’s roughly $50-million offer was officially accepted.

Though the club missed out on the opportunity for a big-name player, Vermes says Bradley is the type of star that Sporting KC will go after in the future.

Both he and Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman have said in the past that they will not bid for a major player just for the sake of adding a big name, but will spend for players embodying the qualities the club attempts to instill in its players.

“The quality that he has a player, the character that he has a person, I think it fits exactly in with the people we’ve looked for (and brought into) this club,” Vermes indicated. “That part’s not going to change. As a matter of a fact, the standard continues to get higher and higher. That’s not because of myself or anybody on the staff, but because of the players in the organization. They keep raising the standard themselves. That will always be the kind of qualities that we will go after, for sure.”


  • Sporting KC forward Jacob Peterson officially inked a new deal Wednesday. That makes homegrown defender Kevin Ellis the only member from last year’s squad to have yet sign a new deal or move on.
  • On Tuesday, Vermes said the club has made a bona fide offer to Ellis. Vermes hopes to reach an agreement shortly.
  • In not-so typical news, an octopus at a local Kansas City aquarium was named after defender Matt Besler.
  • Kansas City, Missouri, is one of 24 cities vying for a shot at the Centennial Cup America 2016 tournament. Venues must be larger than 50,000, so Arrowhead Stadium — home of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs — would be the site for next year’s tournament.
  • Sporting KC will feature three times next season on ESPN, and four times on FOX Sports 1.

What do you think of Espinoza’s comments? Do you see a star player coming to Kansas City in the near future?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. This is the kind of people MLS needs in Europe, in order to spread the word of MLS and make MLS a juicy attracting league.

  2. What’s interesting is that I’m not sure the “average” American player deserves significantly more money. The cap needs to go up – that’s without a doubt. But I wonder if the league would be better off raising their limit on international players while also raising the cap. The fact is I don’t think there is enough American talent that suddenly clubs would have more depth or talent on their teams just because they are paying their players more. It’s more about being able to spend the money to bring in additional international talent, which will thusly raise their playing standard. But with the current roster rules I doubt that will be possible.

  3. MLS is at a crossroads now. Either make history with this new CBA contract or fall flat on your face over this “MLS Next” campaign. Pay the players, for God’s sake. People want to come play.

    • Or Fall flat on your face….LOL.

      The league is crushing it. In one moment, that almost no one even knows is happening, that will not only stop that, but reverse it 180 degrees and crush the whole league.

      I am going to “guess” no on that one.

      • I applaud your efforts to call out the whiners, but I agree with Nice that this CBA is a huge moment of truth for Garber. If he wants the league to get where he says by 2022, the cap must increase significantly. This cannot be seen by him and the owners as a battle between owners and the players — everyone will benefit from a greatly increased cap.

      • LOL “crushing it”? Surely you must be joking. I am a proud whiner of US Soccer and MLS. Why? Because I love it, and I want it to be better, and maintaining the status quo and not whining about it won’t make it better.

        So repelling Championship players is crushing it?
        So lying to a new fan base about a star player’s contract is crushing it?
        So refusing to pay rookies way above the national average is crushing it?

        Unless I am not understanding what exactly is you are crushing.

      • Quit Whining is arguable the biggest whiners on this website. Disregard him, Nico.

        To clarify, you’re not whining by voicing concerns, suggesting improvements and overall wanting to see the league take the next step. Also, as you said the league is far from crushing it. Garber’s own words have reinforced this whether or not it’s CBA related is irrelevant.

        Garber has been an outstanding tenet but the league needs some new ideas and the NYCFC fiasco is further proof.

      • Disagree. Quit Whining. loves MLS and, for the most part, supports soccer in the US the way it should be supported. He is passionate about the game here and cannot stand people who do not respect it. That does not mean that there are times to be critical, but the game needs support from fans (in addition to all of the other stud) in order to be a top notch league.

        The league is crushing by several measures — that does not mean there aren’t things that could be better or need to be changed. The NYCFC Lampard deal has been blown WAY out of proportion. Do we really expect him to leave Man City when they are in a title chase, and do we really expect Man City to want to let him go when he has impacted the team so much?

        This is not an ideal situation for MLS, but it is far from the disaster that it has been perceived to be. Lampard will be here in the summer. Big deal. MLS has had some stumbles when dealing with a few players, but that is probably inevitable for a league like MLS that is growing as it is with the goals that it has.

        The growth of MLS is not going to happen without hiccups. Lampard staying with City until the end of the season is not a fiasco — the only reason its an issue at all is because fans were told that he would be here at the beginning of the season, so now the fans have a leg to stand on when they throw their hissy fit. Think about how many fans said Lampard was bad for the league and over the hill — and now he is an important player for a EPL title contender. You can’t have it both ways…

        Now it’s time for the league to take a huge step forward with a new CBA. For me, this is the moment truth where Garber has an opportunity to make the league much stronger over night. That type of change is usually not possible, but it is because of the way MLS is set up. If Garber only increases the cap slightly, it will be a huge disappointment and will mean that the league will have to wait another few years until the next CBA to take that step.

        So, let’s put things in perspective — Lampard staying at City for an extra couple of months could actually by good for the league as it brings more worldwide attention and gives fans the “silly season” story lines. The CBA is the subject that we, as fans of the league, should be concerned about — not the delayed arrival of one player on an expansion team.

      • Loving MLS and pointing out gaping flaws aren’t mutually exclusive.

        Proclaiming everyone is “whining” that disagrees with status quo highlights apathy, not love.

      • yeah, obviously. But Quit Whining is not saying he is happy with status quo. More importantly, based on his words and actions, Garber is not happy with the status quo either. There are some things to be critical of, but the overall direction of the league is very positive. Even the Lampard “disaster” is a good thing for the league. People usually bitch about soccer in the US because they are either uniformed, unexperienced, entitled, or some other dumb reason, so I stand behind Quit Whining the majority of the time.

      • Actually,they are crushing it. The league is growing at a steady or healthy rate. From a business perspective, they are absolutely blowing it out of the water.

        You know the number 1 reason businesses fail? Increasing expenditures too quickly. MLS is still in the red and you are suggesting that they increase expenditures at a high rate?

        What you are suggesting will kill the league. The most viable businesses growing slow and steady versus trying to go big which leads to failure.

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