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U.S. women head for the World Cup, but coach Vlatko Andonovski still calls Kansas City home

A man wearing a red jersey with blue shirts gestures while talking on a soccer pitch with a female player from the United States.
David J. Phillip
/
AP
United States women's soccer team coach Vlatko Andonovski, right, talks with Becky Sauerbrunn during the second half of an international friendly soccer match on June 10 in Houston.

The Kansas City coach under the biggest spotlight right now is not Andy Reid of the Chiefs, or Mike Matheny of the Royals. It’s the coach of the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

In the three years Vlatko Andonovski has coached the U.S. women’s national soccer team, he could’ve moved to any number of places – namely, to Chicago, where the U.S. Soccer Federation is based.

But Andonovski insists on keeping his home base in Kansas City, Missouri, where he coached the city’s first professional women’s soccer team for five years.

“I don’t think Vlatko will ever leave Kansas City,” said national team general manager Kate Markgraf last month. “But I do know that he is in the (Chicago) office, and that was his commitment to me.”

Andonovski's loyalty, and his past success on the Kansas City scene, has earned him his own local fan base.

It comes at a time when the national squad is positioning itself for two of the biggest sports competitions in the world: The Women’s World Cup in 2023 and the 2024 Olympics.

At a continental tournament in Mexico, Andonovski guided the team to a clinching berth to the World Cup last week. If they make it to the July 18 title match of this tournament and win, they would qualify for the Olympics.

Kaylin Williams, who played for Andonovski on a youth team several years ago, said she and a group of friends are paying close attention to the women’s national team — and especially Andonovski’s coaching.

“We’d go through a passing pattern and he would say, ‘We have to do this 10,000 times to be able to see this exact thing in a game,’” Williams recalled. “There was that focus and, yeah, very detailed.”

A women wearing a blue soccer kit stands for a portrait in front of an indoor soccer goal. Red padding covers the wall behind the face of the goal, and green turf extends behind the woman.
Greg Echlin
/
KCUR 89.3
Semipro soccer player Kaylin Williams, who also shares coaching duties for Avila University and the KC Athletics club team, played for Andonovski on a youth team.

After her goalkeeping days at Eastern Michigan University, Williams turned semipro. She also coaches soccer at Avila University and for the KC Athletics soccer club.

She said it’s not unusual to see Andonovski around Kansas City practice pitches when he’s back in town.

“It’s kinda cool, especially when he shows up and our club teams are like, ‘Hey, that was my coach!’” she said. “But now, look who he’s coaching and look (at) what he’s doing with the girls. It’s been fantastic to see.”

On June 22, when the Kansas City Current officially cut the ribbon at their new practice facility in Riverside, Missouri, Andonovski had previously toured it and gave it his blessing.

“It was just nice to go around, look at it and think where this game was, the league was, and this team were 10 years ago when I first started working in (the National Women’s Soccer League),” Andonovski told the media last month.

0713_GE_Vlatko_KCCurrentRibbonCut.JPG
Greg Echlin
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KCUR 89.3
Before officials had gathered for the ribbon-cutting at the Kansas City Current's new Riverside, Missouri, practice facility, Andonovski, not pictured here, had already been given a tour.

It’s a far cry from when he was the FCKC head coach. With no centralized operation then, Andonovski’s players routinely shuffled around the city to practice. The team ceased operations five years ago.

But Andonovski led FCKC to back-to-back league championships in 2014 and 2015 — and got the attention of U.S. Soccer, which governs the men’s and women’s national teams.

Andonovski said at his introductory news conference that the juggled schedule in Kansas City had prepared him to coach at the national level.

“It was intense, it was stressful,” Andonvoski said. “There was literally no day off.”

Andonovski, who was born in Macedonia, first came to Kansas City in the early 2000s to play professional indoor soccer for the Kansas City Comets.

Despite the national profile, Andonovski celebrated like a local when FIFA announced in June that Kansas City would be one of the 16 North American cities to host games during the 2026 men’s World Cup.

“It’s just a testament of how much the game has grown in Kansas City and the support that the game has from Kansas Citians,” he said.

The bar for his national team is so high because under Jill Ellis, his predecessor, the U.S. won back-to-back World Cup championships in 2015 and 2019. Next year’s competition is Andonovski’s chance to make it three in a row.

061622_ge_Power&LightfanreactionWorldCup.jpg
Greg Echlin
/
KCUR 89.3
Fans gathered at the Power & Light District react to FIFA's selection of Kansas City as one of 16 North American sites for the 2026 men's World Cup matches.

“I think that Vlatko, in a way where he is such a wonderful and nice person, has continued to uphold that really high standard that expects the absolute most from us,” said Sam Mewis, a Kansas City Current midfielder who also plays for the national team. “I like that we’re held one step beyond what we might feel like we’re capable of.”

As Andonovski continues to lay out his blueprints for the team, the scrutiny will only intensify. In one recent example, Andonovski faced pointed questions from the media after his team missed two penalty kicks in a 3-nil win over Colombia.

Still, as the sport’s most anticipated tournaments approach, it’s clear plenty of people in Kansas City will be watching and rooting for him.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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