Peter Vermes discusses Sporting Kansas City's evolution, its run in the Concacaf Champions League and the USMNT under Gregg Berhalter's watch on the latest Planet Fútbol Podcast.

By Grant Wahl
March 22, 2019

On the new episode of the Planet Fútbol Podcast, SI.com interviews Peter Vermes, the manager and sporting director of Sporting Kansas City, which has reached the Concacaf Champions League semifinals against Mexico’s Monterrey.

You can listen to the full episode in the podcast console below and subscribe to and download the Planet Fútbol Podcast on iTunes. Vermes is the latest guest on the show, which has recently featured MLS commissioner Don Garber, Minnesota United's Collin Martin, MLS standouts Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and Bastian Schweinsteiger, USWNT star Julie Ertz and Bundesliga-based U.S. national team rising stars Josh Sargent and Tyler Adams.

Here are some of the standout quotes from the interview:

On what it will take for MLS teams to start winning CONCACAF Champions League not just once but regularly:

“I think it's a combination of things. We're already on the path. I've been someone who has been very complimentary of the injection of TAM and then also discretionary TAM. I think those new mechanisms for acquiring players of a higher quality that we have had in our league over the years has been a huge help to improving the product on the field. It's not necessarily the guy that's making $5 million and $7 million a year. It's the guys that are in that TAM region, anywhere from $500,000 to $1.5 million. Because there's a lot of very good players around the world that really bring quality to your team at that level of compensation

"I would say we have to keep moving in that direction, and I also think the last thing is that we have to increase the size of our senior rosters. Currently our senior roster today is 20, and I think if we increase the size of our roster on our senior side, what it will do is give us the opportunity of competing and possibly winning Champions League, but the other is to maintain your competitiveness within the regular season as well. And that has to be a goal because you shouldn't have to sacrifice one for the other.”

On the transformation of Kansas City from a high-pressing to possession-based team in recent years:

“We're not as high-pressing as we used to be. We were the team that really embarked on that first [in MLS], and it was more around 2011 and 2012 and then 2013 when obviously we got the big reward winning MLS Cup that year. I believe at that time you could really press, and you could get a lot of results from it. I don't mean this disrespectfully, but our league was different then. We didn’t have the same quality that we have now in our league, so when teams press now you have better players to be able to find solutions and be able to break through that and actually look for the places where the other team now has left themselves extremely vulnerable.

"So it's been our evolution that first off, when you look at the amount of travel we have and the climates that we play in over the course of a year, keeping the ball can really be your friend. But possession can't stand on its own. You have to have a purpose in your possession. I just think some of the quality players we've added over the last couple years have really helped us in having a much clearer picture and purpose of why possession is important to us, and that is ultimately to create great chances on goal. When you look at last year, we scored the most goals in our club's history. I really think it has to do with two things. One is our possession has gotten better and I think we've added quality players in the final third that have better solutions when you're able to keep possession like we do.”

On whether U.S. Soccer would ever be willing to give him the amount of control he would want someday to coach the men’s national team:

“I don't know, I really don't know. I'm sure there's many reasons why they went the way they did. But what I would say is having watched the first couple games by the US team—I was at the game in Arizona live—I think Gregg [Berhalter] and his staff are doing a great job. You can see just in the first game alone, the ideas in the game for the team to play with a model of play, with all the players understanding their roles and responsibilities within the game. The players understanding the shirt they're wearing, responsibility comes with it. You're playing for the United States, and there is something special about that. And it's not just a status, not just a money grab. It is the responsibility of playing for your country, and you can see that already being instilled back into the team.

"As a former player, and I sat on the board of U.S. Soccer for many years, and being a fan, it is great to see that that is being restored. I think Gregg and his staff are doing a great job. I told Gregg that I am 100% supportive of what he's doing, and if there's anything he needs from me or Sporting Kansas City and any way we can help him, we are here to help try and come up with solutions and ways to assist them to be as successful as they can be. Because I think that's the most important for the game. I'm happy where I'm at and what I'm doing, and if Gregg can take this national team to different heights than it's ever achieved, then I am 100% supportive of that. Because that's what we need to continue to grow the game of soccer in this country.”

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