The Beslers went through a lot of garage doors. Just about every month one of the three boys put a dent in the door with a ball or broke a window with a puck.
“My parents were not too happy about it,” Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler said. “I’m sure they’re OK with it now.”
A couple decades later, two of their sons are playing professional soccer, and on Wednesday Matt and Nick have the chance to face each other in a competitive match for the first time. Real Salt Lake takes on Sporting Kansas City at Rio Tinto in the fourth round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“I’m going to for sure try to win bragging rights,” Nick said.
Even as kids Matt and Nick were often on the same team against their middle brother Mike and one of his friends. They all played organized sports, but together in the back yard or the driveway they added twists to classic games.
Jumping on the trampoline turned into a contest for who could make the best catch as they tossed the football around. They added a three-point basketball shot to street hockey. When one of the brothers missed a shot in HORSE, instead of getting a letter he had to complete a dare, like closing out his mother’s email while she was working.
The Beslers were always competitive, but Matt had never prepared himself for the possibility of facing Nick in a professional game.
“I don’t know what to expect or how I’m going to feel,” Matt said of Wednesday’s match.
With six years separating them, for Matt and Nick to play each other several factors needed to work in their favor: they both had to be good enough to go pro, and then Matt needed to play long enough and Nick needed to rise through the ranks quickly enough for their careers to overlap. Miraculously, that all happened.
Matt, captain of Sporting Kansas City, has spent the entirety of his decade-long career with his hometown club. The center back also has earned 47 caps with the United States national team.
Nick, 25, was selected fifth overall in the 2015 SuperDraft. He spent the first three seasons of his professional career in the USL, first with Portland Timbers 2 and then with the Real Monarchs.
Traditionally a defensive midfielder, Nick made his MLS debut as a center back in RSL’s 3-0 win over Colorado on April 21. He has made eight appearances since.
The weekend of Nick’s debut was a busy one for the Beslers. The night before, his parents Greg and Diane watched from the Children’s Mercy Park stands as their eldest son tied Kerry Zavagnin’s club record for starts (228) and set a new record for minutes played (20,551). The next morning they flew to Salt Lake City to watch their youngest son kick off his MLS career.
But that kind of travel was the usual for Greg and Diane. They had done something similar when Matt’s wedding fell on the night before Nick’s NCAA championship match with Notre Dame. (“I don’t think they slept at all,” Matt said.)
“They’re definitely the biggest supporters for all three of us,” Nick said. “The stories that they’ve had and the commitments that they’ve made and gone through with are pretty cool.”
The Besler brothers’ dynamic has changed with age. Matt has a family of his own, and he and Nick spend their MLS seasons in different states. Mike took a different path and is now a history teacher.
“At the same time when we still get together there’s a lot of those [same] elements in play,” Matt said.
Take Christmas a couple years ago for example. The Besler brothers and their father decided to go to the gym to play a friendly game of basketball as a family.
“It turned unfriendly pretty quick,” Nick said.
He and Mike teamed up against Matt and Greg. Matt and Nick guarded each other, and at one point Matt almost clocked Nick in the jaw with his elbow as the SKC center back drove to the hoop, according to Nick.
Nick joked if they got on the field at the same time Thursday, they’d try to at least keep elbows away from the face.
RSL is set to rotate in a young lineup for the fourth round Open Cup match in a brutal stretch of five matches in 15 days, making it likely that Nick will get on the field. Matt is traveling with Sporting Kansas City, and the defending Open Cup champions often put out first-choice lineups, even in the Open Cup. However, they have had an especially quick turnaround after beating Minnesota 4-1 Sunday.
U.S. OPEN CUP
SPORTING KC AT REAL SALT LAKE
Kickoff • Wednesday, 8 p.m.
TV • KMYU
Radio • 700 AM
Records • RSL 7-6-1, SKC 8-2-4
Last meeting • RSL 2, SKC 1 (Oct. 22, Rio Tinto Stadium)
About SKC • Kansas City beat RSL 3-1 in the 2015 Open Cup semifinals the last time the two teams met in the tournament. … SKC has won the Open Cup four times, including last year. … SKC was missing midfielder felipe Gutierrez (sports hernia,) and defender Jimmy Medranda (undisclosed) to injury in Sunday’s match.
About RSL • In its last Open Cup match, RSL lost 4-1 in the fourth round to USL club Sacramento Republic. … RSL Goalkeeper Alex Horwath (achilles), midfielders Jordan Allen (knee) and Luke Mulholland (back), and defenders Tony Beltran (knee), Shawn Barry (knee), and Demar Phillips (ankle) remain sidelined due to injury. … Winger Joao Plata suffered a torso injury in Saturday’s match.