Sporting KC’s Daniel Salloi has a new number. It carries special significance

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When Daniel Salloi joined a youth team as a child in Hungary, the coach began passing out numbers. Salloi wanted the No. 9 jersey, the same number worn by his father, Istvan. But it was already taken, so he chose No. 10.

“At that moment, No. 10 didn’t mean anything to me,” Salloi told The Star. “Then I took it, and you just learn how big that number is.”

Daniel Salloi has been known as “DS20” around Sporting KC since 2018. This year, the nickname becomes obsolete. Salloi will wear the No. 10 shirt for the club, which was left vacant after Gadi Kinda’s departure.

The No. 10 shirt represents a hallowed number in soccer. It’s the number worn by all of the greats: Pele, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho and, of course, who could forget MLS’s own Lionel Messi?

In American soccer, the No. 10 has become synonymous with the attacking midfield position. That is one cultural difference as you travel around the soccer world.

In South America, the No. 10 is usually the player who plays in the space between the midfield and attack — the enganche — which has its roots in Argentinian soccer. In Europe — and Italy, specifically — the number has drifted toward those who score the most goals, players like Roberto Baggio and Francesco Totti.

So why is Salloi, who isn’t an enganche and isn’t a pure scorer in the same ilk of Totti and others, wearing the No. 10?

“I think around the world, I think it’s become more of a role in the squad,” Salloi said. “Like, you are an important player. It’s more the importance of the player in the squad. That’s how I look at it.”

His manager, Peter Vermes, offered his view.

“Obviously, there is an aura around the No. 10 that is in every team and around the world,” Vermes said. “The fact that he came and asked (and) he wanted to wear it, I think it’s great. It also puts a lot of pressure on you as well, and he’s willing to take that pressure.”

Expectations will exist when wearing that number, but Salloi has already shown a track record of delivering results. And he says the expectations that come with wearing the new number won’t add any stress.

“I’m not saying it’s just a number, because it’s not just a number,” Salloi said. “It’s very important to me. But I don’t stress on it too much that I have to change my game completely or something like that.”

Even so, he’ll have big shoes to fill. That No. 10 also has meaning within the club’s history.

Plenty of players have worn No. 10 for Sporting over the years, but there’s one who stands out to Salloi: Benny Feilhaber.

“When I think of Sporting No. 10s, he’s the one that really pops in my head,” Salloi said. “He had amazing numbers, and he could win games for the team.”

Since 2021, you could argue no player has been as impactful on the field as Salloi. He’s led the team in goal contributions (goals plus assists) in each of the last three seasons, racking up assists nearly as much as he scores.

And while Salloi says Feilhaber could win the team games, Salloi is a bit of a game-winner himself. He has 16 career game-winning goals, most in Sporting’s regular-season history and among all active MLS players with their current club.

He also has 12 game-winning assists, one shy of Feilhaber for fourth in club history.

And when the lights are brightest, Salloi shows up. He is second in club history in career goal contributions in postseason play, with five goals and four assists, just three shy of former KC Wizards great Preki. He also trails Preki by three for the most postseason goals in club history.

Salloi also is the club’s all-time leader for goals scored in the U.S. Open Cup with eight, notably scoring the winning goal in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup final.

As a whole, Salloi’s 58 goals in all competitions rank fourth most in club history. He feasibly could reach sixth in all-time goal contributions, passing Davy Arnaud, this season.

So, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense.

On Tuesday afternoon, Salloi shared an Instagram post of him celebrating in a Sporting KC shirt — wearing No. 30, No. 20 and a promo shot of him wearing No. 10.

“We just did media day, and seeing all the pictures, I’m just like a little kid,” Salloi said.

His post read, “We’ve come a long way.”

Indeed Salloi has. And it shows the significance of his growth into such an important figure for the club.

When he began playing professionally, it was always his goal to end up wearing the No. 10 kit.

“It’s a full circle moment a little bit,” Salloi said. “I always look back, and the journey’s been great. I’m just glad I can get to this number and (play) an important role in the club.”

Daniel Sperry covers soccer for The Star. He can be reached at