The Sporting KC Academy U-16 and U-18 teams will kick off their USSDA playoff runs today in Westfield, Indiana. For the second consecutive year, both teams qualified for the playoffs. The U-18s will look to build off last year’s performance when they advanced to the USSDA quarterfinals before falling in heartbreaking fashion to eventual champion FC Dallas.
Here are three key players to watch for during the Academy’s playoff run:
SKC Academy U-16s
A mainstay of the U.S. youth national team system, Busio is one of the most promising players in the Sporting KC Academy. The North Carolina native has featured for both the U-16s and U-18s this year and has tallied four goals from his wing position in 2017. Busio turned 15 just two weeks ago is the No. 6 ranked player in the country in the class of 2020 according to TopDrawerSoccer.com.
Similar to Busio, Duke has featured numerous times for U.S. youth national teams. The younger brother of Swope Park Rangers captain Christian Duke, Cameron has shown his versatility for the Academy this year having played outside back, midfield and wing. Duke has already logged training time with Sporting KC and spent the past season rotating between the U-16s and U-18 when not playing for the U.S. U-16 boy's national team.
Kikhia is another player who has featured for both the U-16s and U-18s this year. The Columbia, Missouri native led the U-16s with 10 goals scored and tallied another two for the U-18s in 2017. Kikhia leads a balanced U-16 attack that has seen five players score six or more goals, but if the team hopes to make a deep run in the playoffs, they will need Kikhia to continue his strong scoring form which includes five league goals in 2017.
SKC Academy U-18s
Hernandez (pictured, above) joined the SKC Academy in August 2014 and has not looked back since. He was invited to train with Sporting KC the following preseason and two years later signed a contract with the Swope Park Rangers. The Tennessee native has featured seven times for the Rangers this season with six starts. He also played 11 times for the U-18s in League play with nine goals scored. His veteran presence will be crucial if the 18s are to advance out of a difficult group that includes Atlanta United and LA Galaxy.
Another player who has spent time with the Swope Park Rangers, Enzugusi led the U-18s with 14 goals in 20 games this past year. Enzugusi is a physical presence up top who can hold the ball in the attack and find the outlet pass. Jon Parry’s side will look to Enzugusi to provide the firepower this week against some stiff competition.
The most notable name of the group, Jaylin Lindsey returned from Residency and will feature for the U-18s at the playoffs. Lindsey has been a mainstay with the U.S. youth national teams and started five of six matches in Panama as the U.S. U-17s qualified for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. Lindsey was named to the tournament Best XI at the right back position.