KC Changing the Game
When the Long family announced their plans for the Kansas City Current over the next few years, the soccer world's jaw dropped. Since coming into the NWSL, the Current wanted to become a marquee destination for women's soccer stars around the world, and this past week, one step towards that goal was accomplished. This past week, the Current unveiled their new $18 million training facility that possesses a weight, training, and recovery rooms, a nutrient-focused chef, a kitchen, and a player lounge along with the pristine soccer pitches just outside the doors of the first part of Kansas City's revolution. The franchise hopes to break ground on the new stadium that is expected to open in 2024 this fall at Berkley Riverfront Park.
The 11,500-capacity stadium is going to be the first women's soccer-specific arena in the entire United States and could let the world know that not only have the Current arrived, but the NWSL has reached a new level where failure like the other professional women's soccer leagues is simply not possible. As the 50th anniversary of Title IX has come and gone, the world begins to note what the future looks like for the women athletes not only in soccer but in all different sports. Kansas City is putting a stamp on women's soccer, saying that it is a priority, and investment into the sport is necessary to take it to the next level. The perception of the NWSL is beginning to change around the world with the amount of investment that this ownership group has made into a club that is barely into its second season of existence. From hiring a new president that has worked with the L. A Lakers to revealing the rendering of the new stadium, Kansas City is making women's soccer players around the world jealous that they don't play for the Current.
Following the unveiling, co-owner Chris Long expressed what the future intentions of the club are, stating, "The overreaching goal in making an investment and commitment of this magnitude is to continue on our path of becoming the best women’s soccer club in the world...At the end of the day, we wanted to make an impact...If you look at the historical mindset around women’s sports, honestly it wasn’t as lofty as it could be...To do it right both from a business case/ROI standpoint, but also just doing it right for the players, you have to have a desire to invest and build proper facilities, proper everything that can make this world-class."
Adding two world-class players in Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams is one thing, but developing a place for these women athletes to train and recover on a day-to-day basis is truly groundbreaking. Two other professional women's soccer leagues in the United States were started, but in time both of them failed to cultivate the potential that women's soccer had at the time. Facilities like this one are what draw the players into the league and the team. Women's sports still have unequal facilities among the NCAA and other professional sports, but when owners around the world see this, they have no choice but to take notice. This started with just a few like-minded people with a dream to create a bigger platform for women's soccer players in the United States, and with that, the domino effect could be much larger than they may have anticipated.
Given the grand opening of the new facility, it is only a matter of time before the Current finds some sort of success. Given the injuries that the club has gone through this season with its two most important players, the playoffs might be a stretch. The front office has done its best job to keep the team competitive by trading for Cece Kizer, and teaming her up with an already in-form Kristien Hamilton in the frontline. With the quality of a player like Desiree Scott and the youth of someone like Elyse Bennett, the Current have plenty of room to learn and grow before the season comes to a close.
The new training facility will no doubt attract attention, but it will make for better health around the team, and a more fit squad when it comes time to play. Everything is now at the fingertips of Matt Potter, and the coaching staff who now have the luxuries that no other women's club in the United States possesses. Who knows what quality talent could come to Kansas City within the next few seasons, and with the new stadium, more and more players will come flocking to be a part of the Current revolution. With the new concept of free agency in the NWSL starting in 2023, Kansas City will no doubt be at the top of the list of players with expiring contracts due to the club's aspirations.
After seeing the facility for the first time, the 35-year-old Kristen Edmonds expressed her thoughts, stating, "The only thing that this doesn’t have in it is a time machine for me to get five years younger, so I could play here a little longer...For anybody who wants to come here to play to win championships, they haven’t left any stone unturned...You walk into our gym (and) our crest is on our weights, on our barbells. Everything in here is insanely detailed. We even have teal tile in our bathroom...I’ve been a pro for a few years, but all that meant previously was that I just got paid to play...But now I can come here and truly be a pro on and off the field."
Many reasons why women's leagues have failed in the past have been the lack of belief in the attraction of the sport. This new landmark facility paves the way for the entire world of women's sports to use as an example to take what they have at the moment and elevate it to the next level. The attendance numbers are rising, the attention is slowly growing each season, and the Current is right in the middle of the action raising the bar for all the clubs in the NWSL.
Just 11 months ago, it was just a dream in the heads of Angie and Chris Long, but since that day, they knew history was going to be made sooner rather than later. The Longs are a representation of what should be done in women's sports, giving the best of the best equipment to the athletes that have been deprived of it for their entire careers. Women continue today to get the bottom-of-the-barrel equipment but given this new monstrosity that is a symbol of a revolution, the precedent around the world could be finally turning a corner. Women on the Kansas City Current are true professional athletes, with everything the players and the coaching staff need in order to find success on the pitch. There is only hope that the game-changing minds of the Longs encourage other organizations to follow suit, and provide women with what professional athletes in this day and age should have with no questions asked no matter the gender.