Sporting KC signs Vermes to contract extension through 2023

Peter Vermes is Sporting KC's all-time winningest coach.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Peter Vermes laid out last November a five-year plan for Sporting Kansas City to the club’s ownership group, essentially a blueprint for how to keep the MLS team near the top of the standings.

One of the owners, Mike Illig, tapped on his shoulder afterward.

“I have one problem with this plan,” Illig told him. “The guy that is the architect is someone we don’t have here for the same amount of time. So I’d like to start talking about an extension.”

The talks continued for the next couple months, but were mostly on the back burner as Vermes worked in dual roles as manager and technical director to piece together this year’s roster. And when late January rolled around, the discussions picked up again and a deal was eventually struck.

The extension for Vermes, which could keep him through 2023, was announced Monday.

“It wasn’t a very long process, to be honest with you. It was more just schedule-wise us getting together,” Vermes said. “But we were both under the same opinion that this is what we wanted to do.”

Sporting KC is off to a 6-2-2 start and is in first place in the Western Conference heading into a showdown Wednesday night at Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta.

“Peter has become one of the most successful managers in the history of Major League Soccer, and we are delighted to extend his contract at the club,” Illig said in a statement. “This long-term deal shows commitment from the organization and from Peter, who has helped the club accomplish remarkable things on and off the field for the last decade.”

The Hall of Fame coach has long been considered a potential manager of the U.S. men’s national team, and it’s unclear whether the extension rules him out of that opening, which likely will be filled after the World Cup. But what it makes certain is Vermes will continue to oversee one of the most successful rebrandings in Major League Soccer history.

He played for the club when it was known as the Kansas City Wizards, back when the struggling team was unable to put more than a few thousand fans in cavernous Arrowhead Stadium.

After his playing days, he was hired as technical director and then manager, helping a new ownership group rebuild the franchise from the ground up. Along with a new name came newfound success, and Sporting KC quickly began winning, capturing three U.S. Open Cup titles and the MLS Cup in 2013.

Just as impressive as on-field success, where Vermes has a 150-108-86 record across all competitions, has been Sporting KC’s growth as a multifaceted brand.

The club plays in one of the premier soccer-specific stadiums in the country, almost always before a sellout crowd. It has developed one of the top academies headlined by the Swope Park Rangers, which has already produced MLS talent such as Daniel Salloi. And this year, the club moved its training to Pinnacle, a $75 million project that includes a sports medicine center and the U.S. Soccer National Development Center.

“Obviously, we’ve accumulated some incredible resources along the way,” Vermes said. “We have an incredible collaboration with ownership over the years in creating that vision of who we want to be and how we want to create players in our system. But at the end, this is my project, and I’m committed to it.

“It’s why I’m here and it’s why we’ve done this long-term deal.”

The longest-tenured manager currently in MLS has his hands on every aspect of the club. He does most of the scouting, handles all roster decisions, oversees the Swope Park Rangers and the Sporting KC Academy, and marches up and down the sideline on game days for Sporting KC.

His fiery, no-nonsense style has endeared him to Kansas City fans, and his players have been known to channel his intensity whenever they step on the pitch.

“Peter embodies Sporting Kansas City — a passion for the club and the city, a winning mentality, the relentless pursuit of perfection and a drive to always improve,” Sporting KC chief executive Jake Reid said. “His accomplishments over the past decade speak for themselves. We are thrilled to have him call Sporting KC home for at least five more years.”