Two families with K-State roots lives strong in KC

By Kelly McHugh

When their sons were in the third grade and playing for the same club soccer team, Bill Sinovic and Greg Besler thought they had a lot in common.

Along with having sons passionate about soccer, both dads were proud graduates of Kansas State and both had played football for the Wildcats.

While their K-State ties make them unique to each other from the days of cutting oranges for games and carpooling to practices, today Bill and Greg have a lot more in common than most dads.

It wouldn’t be for another decade, however, that their stories would really become special.

After playing on the same team nearly their entire lives, their sons, Seth Sinovic and Matt Besler, parted ways when they reached college age. Little did Bill and Greg know then, that they would soon be together on the sidelines once again, cheering for their sons on a much bigger stage.

Today, Seth and Matt are both starting defenders for Kansas City’s Major League Soccer team, Sporting Kansas City.

“It feels pretty weird,” Bill Sinovic said about seeing Seth and Matt playing professional soccer, not only for the same team, but also in their hometown. “You look out there at them in front of 20,000 people and they look like mature men and all that, when outside of the game, still, even at Sporting, they’re just a bunch of kids who are somebody’s next-door neighbor.”

Bill Sinovic lettered for the Wildcats’ football team in 1975 and 1976. He was on the team when Ellis Rainsberger was head coach, and saw a successful career as a kicker.

When looking back at his time at K-State, one of Bill’s favorite memories was kicking a record breaking 58-yard field goal, a record that wouldn’t be broken for 12 years.

“I made the field goal and we actually won that game as one of our, maybe, two wins that year,” Bill said. “We beat Brigham Young, who was actually a pretty good team. It ended up being 13-3.

“My kick was in the first half. I kicked the field goal and everyone came out and mobbed me, because back then 58 (yards) was a big deal. It’s still the third longest in K-State history.”

Greg Besler walked-on as a defensive back for K-State in the spring of 1979, and while he only played for a year, the K-State heritage runs deep within the Besler family too.

“You won’t find a bigger K-State fan than Greg Besler,” Bill laughed as he talked about his friend.

Greg and his wife, Diane, are both K-State graduates of 1982. Diane’s parents, Martin and Doris Pankratz, still reside in Manhattan and are K-State football season-ticket holders, so it’s not rare for the Besler’s to travel west from Kansas City to Manhattan for a game.

“We had season tickets to the football games and we would all go up as a family every Saturday for probably 10 straight years,” Sporting KC’s Matt Besler said, “but I have two younger brothers, and once we started getting into high school and college our schedules got a little bit more busy and we couldn’t go as often.”

Greg Besler’s eyes lit up as he talked and remembered back to the years his family would travel to Manhattan for football games, his sons sporting purple Michael Bishop jerseys complete with their favorite soccer number, No. 7.

“I used to be on the Blue Valley soccer board of directories,” Greg began, “and my job was to schedule, so I would purposely schedule all of our youth games either before games or on Sundays. Many weekends, on Saturdays, we’d play soccer, then load up our suburban and drive out to K-State.”

Having alumni parents, Matt and Seth both claim to have always been K-State football fans. The two even share a common memory — crying after the 1998 Big 12 Championship game when K-State lost to Texas A&M.

“I remember crying after that game — Me and Seth, we were pretty big fans as kids,” Matt said.

Seth also admitted to shedding some tears that night.

“It was a rough moment,” Seth said. “We used to go over to my grandpa’s house to watch all the big games, and I still remember that — that was a rough day.”

Even though now they are next to each other on the Sporting Kansas City defensive line, during their childhood and high school years, Matt and Seth both played in the goal-scoring, offensive position of forward.

The two played for KCFC Alliance Club soccer team from the third grade until they graduated high school.

“They’ve always played next to each other,” Greg Besler said, “that’s the amazing story, I think. It’s like a little league pitcher and catcher growing up, then going on to play together professionally. It’s just really special.”

As for Matt and Seth’s position change, going from an offensive mindset growing up, to a defensive mindset today, Greg said there’s a little more pressure when they’re on the field.

“They used to be in the glory, scoring goals,” Bill said, “but now that they’re in the back, it’s a little different pressure, so I think they appreciate the role of the defenders more now.”

With 10 years playing together on the same club team, the Besler family and the Sinovic family saw their share of road trips, but they said these trips brought the families together.

“When they were younger, they traveled a lot to Nebraska and Iowa, or St. Louis and Tulsa,” Bill said. “Then they started going to Dallas and Phoenix, Cincinnati and San Diego, all over, and we always went and the Beslers always went.

“So, that’s how we got to know the Beslers so well.”

Matt went on to play college soccer at Notre Dame and Seth walked-on at Creighton. After their college careers, Matt was selected eighth overall in the first round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and started playing professionally in his hometown of Kansas City.

Seth signed with the New England Revolution and played two seasons there before signing with Sporting Kansas City in 2011.

“Seth and Matt, I would say, are probably the most successful MLS guys out of the Kansas City-area,” Bill Sinovic said. “It makes it even stranger that they used to play next to each other as forwards and now they’re next to each other and they’re defenders.”

Today, in the Sporting Kansas City locker room, their lockers are just two apart and after games Seth and Matt usually hang around and talk. The two play a huge role in Sporting KC’s four-man, starting defense that has gone 23-2-6 in 31 games when they’ve all started together this season — allowing only 18 goals.

The pair says the comfort level from playing together so many years gives them an edge over their opponents on the field with Sporting KC.

“It’s been awesome,” Seth said, looking at Matt in the locker room after the two played the full 90 minutes together after a game. “We’ve been playing on the same club team since we were 7-years-old, he’s been a good friend of mine over the years.

“To be able to play on the same professional soccer team, there’s a comfort level there and I think we feel really comfortable on the back line.”

Matt and Seth take the field again on Sept. 14 when Sporting KC hosts the Houston Dynamos at 7:30 p.m. at Livestrong Sporting Park. The game will be aired on NBC Sports. Sporting KC is currently ranked at No. 1 in the Eastern Conference with 50 points.

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