Gianluca Busio continued his torrid scoring spree, Tyler Freeman entered late and the United States U-17 Men’s National Team qualified for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup with a well-deserved 3-0 victory over Panama in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf U-17 Championship on Sunday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
The 16-year-old Sporting Kansas City Academy products have helped the U.S. set up a semifinal battle against Canada on Tuesday, with the winner advancing to the tournament final on Thursday. By virtue of their semifinal achievement, the USA has punched its U-17 World Cup ticket as one of four representatives from the Concacaf region.
Outmatched Panama were a tough nut to crack as Sunday’s quarterfinal clash went to halftime scoreless. The game-changing moment came courtesy of Busio, who ran onto Adam Saldana’s through ball in the 54th minute and slotted low into the corner for his team-best fifth goal of the tournament.
Busio’s strike instilled head coach Raphael Wicky’s side with newfound momentum, and the Americans doubled their advantage on the hour mark when Gio Reyna converted a penalty kick to pull level with Busio’s goal total in the competition. The result was put beyond doubt when Ricardo Pepi raced through and finished on the breakaway to round out the scoring after 75 minutes.
Freeman, a 16-year-old teammate of Busio’s at Sporting, entered in the 79th minute and showed impudence and creativity in the final third as the U.S. saw out what ultimately became a comfortable triumph over the Panamanians, who mustered just two total shot attempts and none on target.
Having clinched a berth to the FIFA U-17 World Cup later this year in Brazil, Busio and Freeman will continue their Concacaf U-17 Championship campaign on Tuesday. The U.S. defeated Canada 3-2 in their group stage opener on May 2, prevailing 3-2 after digging themselves a 2-0 deficit in the first half. Tuesday’s semifinal is slated for 4:30 p.m. CT with an English-language live stream on the Concacaf Facebook page and a Spanish-language telecast on Univision Deportes Network.
Busio, Freeman and the USA are hoping to win the Concacaf U-17 Championship title for the first time since 2011. Mexico has won the tournament on three straight occasions, including a penalty shootout triumph over an American side led by Sporting defender Jaylin Lindsey in the 2017 final.