KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Every once in a while, Robb Heineman will pick up a ringing phone and listen to the director of some club or national team ask for permission to speak with Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes.
If he was ever nervous about them luring Vermes away, Heineman can rest even easier now.
The CEO of the Major League Soccer club announced Tuesday that Vermes agreed to a contract extension with Sporting KC, keeping him in charge of the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions as both coach and technical director through the 2017 season.
''It's been a fun couple of years,'' Heineman said. ''I don't think we've done everything we wanted to do, but we just really appreciate the progress that Peter has made and the progress that his leadership has made to the organization.''
Heineman said he's fielded calls from rival clubs in the U.S. and Europe, and even overtures from several national teams, but that Vermes has never expressed any interest in leaving.
''For us to know that he's going to be with us here I think is really important to this ownership group,'' Heineman said.
Vermes played for the organization, then known as the Wizards, from 2000-02. He returned to the club as its technical director in 2006 and turned down an inquiry Los Angeles to remain with the team, eventually becoming the interim coach in 2009 and earning the full-time job.
Over the past four years, Vermes has helped to spearhead a dramatic rise in the club that has coincided with its renaming as Sporting KC and the opening of a $200 million stadium.
Sporting KC is 10-5-6 and currently sits atop the Eastern Conference.
''We have five owners that are absolutely committed to the sport of soccer, building Sporting Club. And finally their connection to the community of Kansas City is something that has allowed me to feel extremely privileged and honored to be part of this club,'' Vermes said. ''I can't thank them enough for having the confidence in me to offer me this opportunity.''
Vermes, who was elected to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in April, has a better winning percentage than any other coach in franchise history. Along with winning regular-season Eastern Conference titles the past two seasons, Sporting KC won the U.S. Open Cup last year.
The club will represent MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League beginning this fall.
''I've always been somebody who's been interested and excited in projects and building things,'' said Vermes, who will also coach his league's squad against Italian club AS Roma in next week's MLS All-Star game hosted by Sporting KC.
''I think we've laid now a very solid foundation for his organization,'' he said, ''and I'm excited about moving forward and developing all the aspects that we've discussed.''
Part of that development is an academy program not unlike those of established European clubs, which allows talented young players to train within the Sporting KC system. The program began in 2007 and is already starting to produce professional-caliber players.
''I truly believe that will be the heartbeat of this club,'' Vermes said. ''It's something we're going to have to strive for if we're going to be a long-term player in this game.''
Now, Vermes has the security to watch the program grow.
''We've got 4 1/2 years to go and execute on that and take that program to the next level,'' Heineman said, ''and it's important that Peter has the ability to do that.''