Gold Cup Preview: Busio and USA to meet Qatar in semifinals

United States vs. Qatar
2021 Concacaf Gold Cup | Semifinals
Thursday, July 29, 2021 | 6:30 p.m. CT
Q2 Stadium | Austin, Texas

Broadcast Schedule:
English | FS1
Spanish | Univision, TUDN
Streaming | FOX Sports app, TUDN app

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio and the United States Men's National Team will battle Asian upstarts Qatar for the first time ever when the sides meet in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup semifinals at 6:30 p.m. CT on Thursday at the brand new Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas.

The compelling matchup between two red-hot teams will be shown live in English on FS1 and the FOX Sports app and in Spanish on Univision, TUDN and the TUDN app. The winner will play victor of Thursday's Mexico-Canada semifinal in the Gold Cup championship match on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

The 19-year-old Busio has made the most of his first experience with the U.S. MNT, starting each of the last three Gold Cup matches after coming off the bench for his debut in their tournament opener on July 11. He collected his first three caps in the friendly confines of Children's Mercy Park as the Americans posted three win to finish atop Group B. Busio went a step further in Sunday's hard-fought 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Jamaica, logging the full 90 minutes for the first time at the senior international level.

Forward Matthew Hoppe decided Sunday's game with an 83rd-minute header, giving the Yanks their ninth goal of the tournament. Busio, meanwhile, delivered a solid stat line by winning 11 of 15 duels, adding eight tackles and completing 90% of his passes.

Head coach Gregg Berhalter's side has conceded just once in 360 minutes at the Gold Cup, securing three 1-0 wins in addition to thumping Martinique 6-1. Qatar will pose an entirely different challenge, as the 2022 World Cup hosts have amassed a tournament-best 12 goals through four games.

Qatar, which does not have to qualify for the 2022 World Cup as the host nation, has sought to compete in a variety of challenging international competitions across the globe. Concacaf invited the defending Asian Cup champions to the Gold Cup, where head coach Felix Sanchez's men have taken full advantage thus far by finishing first in Group D and edging El Salvador in a 3-2 quarterfinal thriller on Saturday in Glendale, Arizona.

Busio has been among the standout Gold Cup performers for the U.S. thus far, with the likes of Hoppe, defender James Sands, outside back Shaq Moore and goalkeeper Matt Turner also impressing. The Yanks are 23-6-3 under Berhalter and own an 12-1-1 record since returning to action last November after an extended hiatus due to the pandemic. The U.S. is rolling with momentum, as well, having defeated archrivals Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League Final on June 6 in Denver.

On the opposite sideline, Qatar comes into Thursday’s semifinal on a 12-game unbeaten streak (10-0-2) that dates back to a 2-1 loss to South Korea on Nov. 17, 2020. Forward Almoez Ali leads the tournament with four goals and has scored seven times for Qatar in 2021. Fellow attackers Abdulaziz Hatem and Hassan Al-Haydos have added five goals apiece during the calendar year, with Hatem bagging three in the Gold Cup.


GOALKEEPERS (3): 22-Brad Guzan (Atlanta United; 64/0), 18-Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), 1-Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 5/0)

DEFENDERS (8): 21-George Bello (Atlanta United; 2/0), 2-Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 20/1), 24-Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 0/0), 20-Shaq Moore (Tenerife/ESP; 9/1), 4-Donovan Pines (D.C. United; 2/0), 12-Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 7/2), 16-James Sands (New York City FC; 4/0), 3-Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 6/1)

MIDFIELDERS (6): 23-Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 35/2), 6-Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; 4/0), 17-Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 26/7), 10-Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 22/0), 19-Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; 2/0), 14-Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)

FORWARDS: (6): 7-Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 36/8), 11-Daryl Dike (Orlando City; 7/3), 8-Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen/FRA; 5/3), 13-Matthew Hoppe (Schalke/GER; 1/0), 15-Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 8/2), 9-Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 60/13)

A North Carolina native, Busio moved to Kansas City in 2016 to join the Sporting KC Academy and has developed into one of the sport’s top teenagers since signing a Homegrown Player contract with the club at age 15 in August 2017. Busio became the second-youngest player in MLS history to record an assist (Aug. 4, 2018) and score a goal (Oct. 17, 2018) in his debut season and has eight goals and eight assists in 62 MLS appearances over the last three years.

Busio has demanded the spotlight in 2021, amassing two goals and three assists while starting 13 matches for a Sporting side that sits third in the Supporters’ Shield standings with 30 points and a 9-3-3 record. He scored the opening goals in Sporting’s 1-1 draw with Orlando on April 23 and 3-2 victory over Houston on May 29, with the latter earning AT&T MLS Goal of the Week honors as Busio became the league’s second-youngest player to score directly from a free kick. He is the first Sporting KC player selected to the U.S. Men’s National Team since Ike Opara in January 2018 and the first Sporting KC Academy product to join the full national team for an official competition.

Held every two years, the Gold Cup is the regional championship for Concacaf and just like in the European Championships and Copa America, lifting the trophy brings prestige and regional supremacy. Over the course of 15 previous Gold Cup tournaments, the United States has lifted the trophy six times (1991, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2017), just behind all-time leaders Mexico with eight (1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2019). Canada is the only other tournament champion, coming away with the title in 2000.