Assuming there isn’t a freak implosion amongst the rest of the National Women’s Soccer League teams that would open up an unlikely path to the playoffs, there are just six games left of Kansas City NWSL’s inaugural season.
Despite a route to the playoffs looking extremely slim, there’s still a lot to look forward to for Kansas City, both in the near and distant future.
Kansas City heads into Sunday’s road fixture against the Washington Spirit coming off a three-week break, snapping a good stretch of games that saw KC win two and tie two of their last eight games, losing the other four.
Although not the most impressive stat line, the stretch of games saw Kansas City pick up eight of its 11 total points this season. The pick up of form had Kansas City turn what looked to be a historically bad season into just a regular bad season.
Now, KC hopes to continue that better play for the final six games of the season.
“It did break momentum, it did break a period of us playing well,” KC head coach Huw Williams said of the break. “I don’t know if scared is the right word though, I’m not scared of it, but it’s something that I feel comfortable and confident that we will get back to that level and above that level.”
Winger Hailie Mace is cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances coming out of the break.
“At this point, we can’t really make the playoffs,” Mace said. “So I think we’re just trying to get better as a team and figure out the style we want to play and just get a few more points and finish out the season strong.”
Like any team, Williams is looking to finish with a winning record over the last six games. But he’s also looking to average at least two goals per game over that stretch too — a big ask for a team that’s had just two multi-goal games this season.
Sunday’s 4 p.m. CT kickoff against Washington is the first hurdle for Williams’ team. The Spirit was the last team to beat Kansas City at home, all the way back on June 26, when the Spirit scored two goals in the final 15 minutes to win 2-1.
Washington boasts a dangerous frontline including rookie winger Trinity Rodman and her left-sided counterpart Ashley Sanchez. They flank Kansas City native Dorian Bailey, who Williams coached in her youth, and sit just behind forward Ashley Hatch, who has a league third-best seven goals in 2021.
“We look forward to that challenge,” Williams said. “We look forward to being able to play against quality teams like that and test our development and how far we’ve come and see if we can handle it.”
Kansas City finishes out the season with four home games in October and a game at the Chicago Red Stars on Oct. 16.
Looking to the future
Even before the 2021 season comes to a close, Kansas City has plenty to look forward to in 2022.
Primary among those include an official name and branding that’s expected to be announced in the offseason, as well as a state-of-the-art training facility and a move into Sporting Kansas City’s home stadium, Children’s Mercy Park.
The club announced last week that it’s building a $15 million practice facility in Riverside, just north of the Missouri River. The new facility has a target completion date of 2022, which would allow Kansas City to move out of Swope Soccer Village and have a permanent place to call home.
“Fantastic dedication to this team and to our community and it’s huge steps for us to have our own place to train,” Williams said Friday about KC NWSL’s ownership group.
The 17,000-square-foot facility will include two grass fields, a world-class locker room, weight room and cardio rooms, plus multiple outdoor spaces and spaces for gathering.
“It’s awesome,” Mace said. “I don’t know how many other teams have had this opportunity to do that and build their own training facility, and hopefully we’ll have our own stadium in the future.”
Mace’s hopes for a new stadium for KC NWSL are yet to be confirmed, but the club will be moving into a soccer-specific stadium for the start of the 2022 season.
Kansas City has spent its inaugural season sharing Legends Field with the Kansas City Monarchs, KC’s independent baseball team. KC NWSL is just one of two teams in the NWSL to not play in a soccer-specific stadium, along with the OL Reign.
But the Reign will soon be left alone on that list as Kansas City moves just down the road into Children’s Mercy Park.
“The people at Monarchs were unbelievably welcoming to us and really went out of their way to help us,” Williams said. “We have four more games at home there and we want to certainly do our best to take advantage of that and get the most out of that experience.
“Really make the Legends Field feel like home for us and we appreciate all of that, but excited for the next steps too.”