MLS Fan Watch: Sporting Kansas City

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
10:30
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Sporting KC Fans Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesKansas City soccer fans have been experiencing a serious revival over the past few seasons.
Editor's note: Welcome to MLS Fan Watch, in which ESPN Playbook takes a closer look at the supporting group for each of the eight MLS conference semifinalists. The seventh in the series focuses on fans of Sporting Kansas City.

Sporting Kansas City may be down two goals after their first-leg loss in Houston, but there is still hope of moving on to the conference finals.

Since MLS adopted the current two-game aggregate playoff format in 2003, at least one team has overcome a first-leg deficit every year except 2008 and 2011.

Sporting certainly has the defense to stop the bleeding. It allowed the fewest goals (27) in MLS this season.

Also in Sporting's favor is the ongoing rebirth of soccer in K.C., where the Eastern Conference regular-season champions play in an intimidating stadium with fans right on top of the action.

LiveStrong Sporting Park is a $200-million soccer palace with a franchise-record average attendance of 19,402 (including standing-room only) this season. The team will need a huge home boost to beat the Dynamo on Wednesday night.

Stadium: LiveStrong Sporting Park
Opened: 2011
Capacity: 18,467

Supporter groups and stadium locations:

The Cauldron (M4-M9)

- La Barra KC: Promotes racial tolerance and mutual respect among members while going nuts for 90 minutes solid. Also: great drummers.
- Brookside Elite: Founded in 2009 during the Wizards era (1997-2010), the BSE are avid tailgaters and charity supporters.
- King City Yardbirds: Arguably the best-named supporter group in MLS. The name comes from Kansas City jazz legend Charlie Parker's nickname and the ’60s band that launched Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.
- Hillcrest Syndicate: A more laid-back veteran supporters group of “retired” Cauldron fans who have made way for the younger ranks to drive the party.
- Southern Voodoo: Founded in 2009, this is a supporters group from Joplin, Mo.
- Mass Street Mob: A Lawrence-based group that appropriates its crazy brand of support for Jayhawks basketball.

Cauldron Emeriti (M1-M3)

- Northland Noise: These supporters make the drive south to LiveStrong Sporting Park from Clay and Platte counties.

The South Stand SC

- The Wedge-115: Claim all of Section 115 and enjoy making signs and waving flags throughout matches. They also sit now and then.
- Ad Astra SKC: Launched with the opening of LiveStrong Sporting Park in 2011 with a focus on tailgating, loud cheering and philanthropy. Kids welcome.

Known for: Crazy fan support. Anyone who hasn’t seen a game at LiveStrong Sporting Park will have a hard time grasping the degree of loyalty fans have shown the team since it rebranded itself in 2010. Sporting’s success has softened the blow of the city’s hapless NFL and MLB squads.

Sample chant: “We Love You Sporting”

"We love you sporting, oh yes we do.
We love you sporting and we'll be true.
We will forever, bleed blue!
Oh Sporting we love you.
"

[+] EnlargeJimmy Nielsen
John Sleezer/Getty ImagesSporting KC captain Jimmy Nielsen has been with the club since 2010.
Fan favorite: Jimmy Nielsen, goalkeeper. The team captain is popular with the locals and with MLS fans in general.

He has been nominated for MLS Save of the Week six times -- and each time, fans have voted him the winner.

Off the pitch, the Dane’s media friendliness and engagement with the community make him No. 1 in the hearts of fans.

Opponent’s perspective: “The fans there aren’t malicious, but they’re definitely loud and passionate.

"And because they're so close to the pitch, they like to banter with the players to get in our heads a little.

"When I was warming up before a game last year, the whole supporter section sounded like they were saying, ‘Hey Tally, your mom says hi.’ They did that a couple times. Finally, I turned around and yelled, ‘Tell her I love her.’ They seemed to enjoy that.” -- Tally Hall, Houston Dynamo goalkeeper

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