Fandemonium

This year, KHC features weekly posts related to the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Hometown Teams, currently touring Kansas.

Fans of Sporting KC, Kansas City's Major League Soccer team, cheer for their team in good times and bad.  Image Courtesy Lawrence Journal-World Photos.

Fans of Sporting KC, Kansas City’s Major League Soccer team, cheer for their team in good times and bad. Image Courtesy Lawrence Journal-World Photos.

He had the goaltender beat.

In the 2013 Major League Soccer Championship game, headed into the tenth round of the shootout, Real Salt Lake defender Lovel Palmer kicked straight ahead, but Sporting KC goalie Jimmy Nielsen dove left.

It should have been a tying shot, setting up another round of the shootout and giving Salt Lake a chance to stay in the game. But instead Sporting KC got some help from the top goalpost, which clipped the ball as it rose and rebounded it out of the net.

With that, Sporting KC won the 2013 MLS Cup for the first time since moving to their new home, Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. And they did it in front of the same home crowd that regularly packs the stands throughout the season, often selling out the nearly 18,500-seat stadium.

Despite some ups and down in the team’s record over the years, its fan base has grown steadily. And it’s the fan culture that defines Sporting KC soccer as much as anything that happens on the field.

The Members Stand at Sporting Park is known as “The Cauldron,” a holdover from Sporting KC’s past as the Kansas City Wizards. Located under a banner that reads “Welcome to the Blue Hell,” supporters in this section are the most enthusiastic and vocal fans at the game, chanting, singing and always, always standing.

Sporting KC boasts several independent supporters’ groups in its North and South Stands, women and men who come together on game days to tailgate before first kick and cheer between whistles. These groups also sponsor watch parties, pick-up games and philanthropy events in their quest to spread the love of the game.

And on December 7, 2013, as the crowd erupted into roars of victory and fireworks exploded in the sky, Sporting fans received the ultimate reward for their devotion: a MLS Cup won at home.