Gold Cup Preview: First place up for grabs as Busio and USA face Canada in KC

United States vs. Canada
2021 Concacaf Gold Cup | Group B
Sunday, July 18, 2021 | 4 p.m. CT
Children’s Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas

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

United States Men's National Team debut? Check. First U.S. MNT start? Check. First U.S. MNT assist? Check.

The next test for Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio is to help the Americans finish atop Group B of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup when they battle northerly neighbors Canada in a heavyweight clash on Sunday afternoon at sold-out Children's Mercy Park.

The United States and Canada have clinched the top two spots in Group B and qualification for the Gold Cup quarterfinals on July 25 in Arlington, Texas. Who finishes in pole position, however, remains up in the air. Both teams boast a plus-6 goal differential but the Canadians hold the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtual of more goals scored. Consequently, the U.S. must beat Canada on Sunday to claim first place.

USA Schedule: 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup (Group B) at Children’s Mercy Park

  • Sunday, July 11 vs. Haiti (Won 1-0)
  • Thursday, July 15 vs. Martinique (Won 6-1)
  • Sunday, July 18 vs. Canada (4 p.m. CT | FOX, FOX Sports app | TICKETS)

Busio's meteoric rise in 2021 reached new heights when he was selected to the U.S. MNT for the first time ahead of the Gold Cup. The buzz surrounding the 19-year-old has only grown stronger since then, with an impressive debut in last Sunday's 1-0 win over Haiti followed by a steady 90-minute performance in Thursday's 6-1 thumping of Martinique. The fact that Busio has represented his country in the friendly and familiar confines of Children's Mercy Park, the world-class home of Sporting Kansas City, has only heightened the sweetness of the occasion.

The U.S. MNT's lopsided victory against Martinique was punctuated in the 90th minute when Busio tallied his first assist at the senior international level, crossing low for Kansas City native Nicholas Gioacchini to hammer home for the Americans' sixth and final goal of the night. Becoming the second youngest U.S. player to start a Gold Cup match at 19 years and 48 days, Busio completed a game-high 68 passes at a 91% clip as the Yanks improved their unbeaten record at Children's Mercy Park to 7-0-1 all-time.

Busio was among several standout performers in Thursday's contest. Forward Daryl Dike scored twice and forced a Martinique own goal, lively attacker Matthew Hoppe tallied an assist, Gioacchini and Gyasi Zardes came off the bench to score and center backs James Sands and Walker Zimmerman made life comfortable for goalkeeper Matt Turner.

The U.S. boasts a 21-6-3 record under head coach Gregg Berhalter and will face a stern test Sunday against a formidable Canada outfit led by manager John Herdman. The Reds boast a perfect 8-0-0 record in 2021 with the likes of prolific striker Cyle Larin, target man Lucas Cavallini, wingback Tajon Buchanan and LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye leading the way. Canada has secured a pair of 4-1 wins in their first two group stage matches, casting aside Martinique and Haiti.

The U.S. MNT owns a 17-10-10 all-time record against Canada with just one loss in the last 19 meetings since 1985. The lone defeat during that dominant stretch came in October 2019 when the Reds notched a 2-0 win in the Concacaf Nations League group stage, but the Americans swiftly avenged the result with a 4-1 victory of their own the following month.

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

DEFENDERS (8): 21-George Bello (Atlanta United; 2/0), 2-Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 18/1), 20-Shaq Moore (Tenerife/ESP; 7/0), 4-Donovan Pines (D.C. United; 1/0), 12-Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 5/2), 16-James Sands (New York City FC; 2/0), 3-Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 4/1), 5-Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 16/2)

MIDFIELDERS (6): 23-Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 33/2), 6-Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; 2/0), 17-Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 25/7), 10-Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 21/0), 19-Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; 2/0), 14-Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 14/0)

FORWARDS: (6): 7-Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 36/8), 11-Daryl Dike (Orlando City; 5/3), 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; 58/13)

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 all 13 matches for a Sporting side that sits second in the Supporters’ Shield standings with 26 points and an 8-3-2 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.