Tony Meola and the “Unwanted” 2000 Kansas City Wizards


On Sunday, Landon Donovan, the best American soccer player, will take the field in his final soccer game at the 2014 MLS Cup final. Another US Soccer legend, Tony Meola had a successful tenure on the national team and in MLS specifically with the Kansas City Wizards, who have since been rebranded to Sporting Kansas City.

You don’t have to listen to everyone. If you think you can get it done, you can.” – Tony Meola

In 2000, Meola took the field in his second year with the Wizards. The previous year NJ/NY MetroStars (now NY Red Bulls) traded Meola and Alexi Lalas to Kansas City in exchange for Mark Chung and Mike Ammann. Due to a knee injury, Meola only played in nine league games in 1999. Kansas City’s off-season overhaul as stated on Sporting KC’s website included “defender Peter Vermes (now manager), midfielder Kerry Zavagnin (now an assistant coach) and proven forward Miklos Molnar.”

"“We called ourselves the ‘unwanted’ because no one else wanted us,” Tony Meola explained. “Other teams didn’t want us and sent us to Kansas City.”"

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The “Unwanted” wanted to prove their doubters wrong and landed on the top of the table from the first weekend. It’s not easy to accomplish such feat and come away with the MLS Cup at the end of the year. To Meola’s knowledge, the 2000 KC Wizards are the only MLS team to hold this accomplishment. They never lost their top spot in the league as they started the season 10-0-2, which included winning both the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup. They defeated the Chicago Fire 1-0 to take win the 2000 MLS Cup Final.

The 2000 MLS Season was his most decorated; Meola was awarded MLS Cup MVP, League MVP, Goalkeeper of the Year, and Comeback Player of the Year. Yet, his most memorable moment of the 2000 MLS Cup Final wasn’t about lifting the MLS Cup or anything related to the game, but rather who was in the stands.

"“I was excited to get to the end of the MLS Cup Final. It was my dad’s first day out from cancer treatments and my cousin drove him down from New Jersey (to RFK stadium), so he could see me play. During the season, he wasn’t able to make many games due to chemo treatments. Seeing him was the icing on the cake.”"

The 2000 KC Wizards proved their doubters wrong on that day and throughout the season. For Meola, that season served as a life lesson.

"“I was motivated after being written off during the 1999 season due to my knee injury. Many people, including the MetroStars organization, thought I wouldn’t play soccer again. You don’t have to listen to everyone. If you think you can get it done, you can. That was the story of myself and the team.”"

It’s a lesson Meola thinks the USMNT team learned during the 2014 World Cup.

"“Many (not including Meola) wrote the USMNT off. According to them, there was no way the United States was going to advance out of the ‘Group of Death’. Yet, they made it out and proved their doubters wrong.”"

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Memories of the 2000 MLS Cup and his MLS career will be remembered as he spends time at this year’s MLS Cup Final. In addition to taking in the game on Sunday, Meola will be spending time at Outbreak Soccer Center –Single Hill on Friday surprising local soccer teams alongside AllState for a special “Good Hands® F.C.” soccer clinic.

As per the press release, Former and current LA Galaxy players Edson Buddle and Chandler Hoffman will join Meola to host a team practice, followed by a presentation from Allstate during which each player will receive new gear and tickets to the MLS Cup where the LA Galaxy will take on the New England Revolution.