KC Current attendance record is latest testimony to not just a moment, but a movement

At the Kansas City Current match on Friday night at Children’s Mercy Park, a group of 60 people assembled by Brandon Simpson of Olathe sat in Section 115 behind the south goal.

They were conspicuous because of the banner touting, “Future KC Current,” which Simpson made the night before and his daughter, Tenley, and her teammates on the Olathe Stars U-12 team repeatedly held up from the front row.

Simpson, who coaches his daughter’s team, organized the outing to activate and animate that vision, for the fun of it and in anticipation of being part of the latest of the never-ending milestones in the Current’s brief history: being among the first crowd of more than 10,000 to see a National Women’s Soccer League match in Kansas City.

“Hopefully,” he said, “we helped them get there.”

Members of the Olathe Stars girls U-12 soccer team cheer on the Kansas City Current, who tied Angel City FC 1-1 and set a new attendance record on Friday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Members of the Olathe Stars girls U-12 soccer team cheer on the Kansas City Current, who tied Angel City FC 1-1 and set a new attendance record on Friday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.

So they did — along with 10,335 others, including a number of other apparent teams sitting together, who heard the call to #ShowUpKC and bore witness to a 1-1 draw with Angel City that extended the Current’s undefeated streak to 11 games and matched the third-longest such run in NWSL history.

It all made for another essential moment within a movement. Something captain Desiree Scott called “that pulse throughout the stadium” that reflected an emerging profile in this community (and well beyond) because of the unprecedented commitment the club is making — including the momentous opening in June of a $19 million training facility in Riverside.

It wasn’t simply that they asked people to show up Friday night and they did, co-owner Angie Long said shortly before the match.

It also was the context of how this crowd approximated the projected 11,500-seat capacity of the impending first stadium purpose-built for an NWSL team, which the Current is expected to break ground on in October at Berkley Riverfront Park on the Missouri River.

“Fantastic” as this arriving crowd was, she couldn’t help but picture the impact of that number multiplied by a stadium contoured to the Current’s ambitious designs.

The estimated $117 million project (most of which is to be privately funded) is expected to be ready for the 2024 season.

And the very notion of it encapsulates what Angie and Chris Long and fellow co-owner Brittany Mahomes are setting out to do that was well-articulated in the letter to fans they put out earlier this week when they announced a season-ticket deposit sign-up period for that inaugural season.

“This stadium is for Kansas City, the best sports town in the world — a downtown stadium, in the heart of the Soccer Capital of America,” they wrote. “This stadium is for our world-class female athletes — an investment that every female athlete around the world deserves. “Together, we are doing what’s never been done. We are the first, but we will not be the last. Not for novelty, but for necessity. We are not setting the standard; we are building it.”

That’s why the Longs find their imaginations continuing to open up about the possibilities of the stadium, from how it can appeal to a more broad variety of the community to refining amenities in pursuit of something beyond anything Kansas City has.

It’s why they sometimes can be found on the grounds.

“I go down there to walk it a lot, just to kind of visualize,” Angie Long said.

They even go at different times of day to picture the lighting, said Chris Long, adding that they took their family holiday photo on the site that Angie called “very powerful.”

The club has put out various renderings of the stadium-to-be and is planning to release some new ones soon but, alas, didn’t want to divulge much as of Friday.

“You can imagine that it will be true to our brand,” said Angie Long, who added that it will also feature some fun surprises in how it’s reflective of Kansas City itself.

In the meantime, the brand is self-perpetuating through a team that’s thriving under the special commitment of this ownership that in turn engenders something more in how the team views its mission.

The stadium will soon become another tangible demonstration of that to go along with the training center, a place numerous soccer constituencies are visiting with an eye towards replicating … and a place where many of the women are experiencing something dedicated exclusively to them for the first time.

“It’s that sense of ownership,” Angie Long said. “Like anything else, when it’s part of something that you own, it’s a different level of engagement.”

That’s surely part of why the team understands this is about more than just themselves.

“It sounds cliche, but we do (this) for the little girls who want to be us one day,” said Scott, the team captain.

Girls who perhaps can see themselves in the Current in more ways than one, as Lo Labonta put it when she described herself and Scott as being “about 5-foot-nothing.”

“The little girls are all our height,” said LaBonta, who scored the Current’s tying goal on her fourth penalty kick of the season.

With a smile, she added, “They definitely should be inspired that they can do this as well, because we’re not growing any more and they probably are.”

In fact, the Current seems to be growing by the day.

With the best seemingly ahead.

While Chris Long marveled at a photo he’d been sent of a 7-foot painting of Sam Mewis and goalkeeper AD Franch, among other anecdotal evidence of popularity on the rise, they’re also also a national story that’s made international ripples … as NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman noted when she was here for the dedication of the training facility and said the Current’s initiatives have the makings of “not just a moment, but a movement.”

But you can’t spell movement without moment(s).

And Friday night was another moment that furnished a link to the future, harnessing the energy of an appealing team, the burgeoning support of a community and an unfathomable commitment of ownership that heralds special times ahead.

And figures to make more and more people who want to be part of the future of the KC Current in one way or another.