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Let’s talk about the offseason facing Sporting KC and Kansas City Current | soccer Q&A

The Kansas City Current and Sporting Kansas City have entered offseason mode and are focused on building their respective rosters for 2024 season.

With much intrigue surrounding both clubs, around both, here is an offseason-themed Q&A about the pro soccer teams in KC.

As always, thank you for your submissions.

With the rumor of 4 DPs next year, do we go out and get another or give Johnny his DP spot again? — @CRobinson102

Rumors about the addition of a fourth designated player roster spot have been simmering around MLS world for a month or so now.

But during last week’s Sporting KC postmortem news conference, Kansas City manger Vermes said he hadn’t heard anything about the potential addition of a fourth designated player.

He had heard about removing the spending limit attached to the third designated player spot to receive all three U-22 initiative slots being in the mix for league salary cap rules in the offseason.

It would take another thousand words to explain the convoluted MLS roster rules further, and I spared the editor having to sift through that.

To have all three U-22 initiative player slots, there is a cap to how much the third designated player can make that doesn’t apply to the other two designated player spots. That limit is $1 million over the max salary cap charge of $651,250.

To answer Carrie’s question, the DP tag is just a simple roster tag that could be placed on anyone above the maximum budget charge.

It doesn’t mean Russell made less than the DP threshold (he didn’t), and really only serves the purpose of freeing up allocation money (a mechanism for buying downing salary cap hits) to use elsewhere on the roster.

The third DP designation could’ve technically been placed on up to five different players last season, based on the MLS Player’s Association salary release from September.

So how would that potential rule change benefit Sporting? Enter Josh’s question:.

When does Griezmann land in KC? — @JoshBathtub

Griezmann, a French forward who has starred in Spain’s La Liga for over a decade and won the World Cup in 2018 with France, has repeatedly stated his desire to come to MLS.

While the Chiefs were in Germany in November, Griezmann and Sporting KC part-owner Patrick Mahomes ceremonially swapped jerseys for a photo op. Griezmann asked Mahomes if the Chiefs “need anyone in Kansas City.”

Whether Griezmann is asking about Sporting KC or is even remotely serious about the inquiry is not the point. It’s all about the caliber of player that can be added thanks to this proposed rule change; a player who demands a salary above that TAM-able threshold is anticipated to be a team cornerstone and key figure.

Since Gadi Kinda was that third DP, and he is currently out of contract, whether or not Sporting adds another player of his caliber or higher (depending on the potential rule change) likely hinges on whether or not he signs the extension he has been offered.

If he comes back, the chances of adding a DP probably lessen, and if he doesn’t, it becomes more likely. Once it’s made, Kinda’s decision will bring Sporting KC’s offseason picture into a much clearer focus.

Which KC Current player will have the largest bump in productivity with the appointment of Vlatko from last year? Who needs to have the biggest bump in productivity from ‘23 to ‘24? — @kgumminger

Who needs to have the biggest bump in productivity from 2023 to ‘24?Why not Michelle Cooper?

Some of that is just based on the fact that she’ll be in year two. But it also depends on how she’ve viewed by Andonovski. by Vlatko. In his introductory press conference, Vlatko named three players when talking about the “creativity within the Current.”

Those three players were Debinha, Lo LaBonta, and Cooper.I

If she moves back to the striker position, a more natural place for her, Cooper is bound to put more in the back of the net. Cooper was routinely clinical in training sessions but missed a few major opportunities early in the season and then was moved to the wing when Sjöblom took over.

Cooper told The Star she hadn’t played as a winger since she was in youth soccer. As a 20-year-old, that wasn’t too long ago. But as a young rookie, she was essentially asked to learn a new position at the pro level.

If Andonovski moves her back to her natural position, it will put her on the end of opportunities closer to her goal, and her true finishing talent should eventually shine.

As for who needs to have the biggest productivity bump, it’s Hailie Mace. After a breakout year in 2022 with four goals and two assists, Mace struggled in 2023, only notching two assists.

While she is a very talented player, Mace didn’t seem comfortable wherever she was playing on the field, which contributed to a down year for her. Finding the best position for her skill-set will be the biggest factor in seeing Mace rebound in 2024.

Any hope coming from the SKC academy? Jake Davis was a nice surprise but other than that not a lot of production from the academy for some time. What’s going on and is there any reason to think it will change? — @Shep4Liberty

And ...

Clearly I’m looking at the different levers available: what’s the latest on the U22 signings and do you expect some changes or does the club want to stick with the current guys another year? — @Shep4Liberty

Some youth-themed questions here for Sporting KC. First off, all three U-22 initiative player slots are currently filled. Logan Ndenbe, Marinos Tzionis, and Robert Voloder are all under contract through next season, with options for 2025.

Ndenbe is the only one who has taken a step forward since his arrival. He cemented himself quickly as a starter and key figure for the team when he returned from injury this season, and his unfortunate ACL injury during the playoffs will keep him out for close to half of next season.

As for the other two, Vermes was asked if he had seen the type of steps forward from those two and said, “Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.”

Voloder held his own in first-team games but never did well enough to warrant unseating one of Andreu Fontas or Danny Rosero. Tzionis didn’t grab ahold of his opportunities on the field in the way one would’ve hoped in ‘23.

His lone assist in MLS play was a simple pass to Erik Thommy, who dribbled through most of Portland’s defense before unleashing a world-beater of a shot into the far corner. His only goal of the year? Against semi-pro Tulsa Athletic in the Open Cup.

With one year left on all three of their contracts before the club has an option, it would be surprising to see any changes to the U-22 initiative players this offseason unless someone explicitly sought a move away from the club or Sporting was offered a trade they felt was worth executing.

As for the academy products, don’t close the book yet on Kayden Pierre or Ozzie Cisneros within the first team, and Pulskamp seems to be the “heir” to Melia’s place. A reminder that Pulskamp is only 22.

There are two players not signed to first-team deals that come to mind. Nati Clarke, who can play out wide or at full-back, became established with SKCII last season as an 18-year-old, making 19 appearances.

Jack Kortkamp is a goalkeeper who will turn 16 in January. Kortkamp is a part of the residency program and is consistently involved in first-team training with Sporting, even dating back to last season as a 14-year-old.

For the Current’s offseason, how much of a role do you think the new stadium has in enticing players to join the project? — @JoshBathtub

The investments in the players through the stadium and the training center are highly important, and they were already selling points for free agents like Debinha, Morgan Gautrat, and Vanessa DiBernardo, and mentioned by most of the international signings over the last two years as well.

So is the club’s connection with the community. The ability to continually increase attendance despite the team on the field struggling mightily for most of 2023 is key to the stadium being worth the selling point and part of the investment.

With free agency seemingly on hold until the NWSL Expansion draft next week, we’ll soon see what type of pitch was made by the club to some of the biggest free-agent names. Those names on the list of free agents include Rose Lavelle, Crystal Dunn, Kristie Mewis, and many more.

But truly, the biggest piece to bring it all together will be whether or not players are given a first-class experience in terms of stadium and facilities. Even with a news coach and reshuffling of powers in the front office, somewhere, communication wasn’t clear during the trade of Alex Loera to Bay FC.

And it’s not the first time that’s happened, either.

If these issues continue, the pitch to these free agents for an otherwise groundbreaking investment and opportunity in women’s professional sports will be blemished.

Daniel Sperry covers soccer for The Star. He can be reached at sperry.danielkc@gmail.com.