Sporting Kansas City’s man of the hour was also the star of the Sports Connections podcast this week.
Midfielder Gianluca Busio, who on Sunday night earned his prophetic debut for the United States Men’s National Team at Children’s Mercy Park, joined podcast host David Smale for a wide-ranging interview about his transition from aspiring teenager to MLS star, his aspirations of playing in Europe and his U.S. MNT breakthrough.
At age 19, Busio is the youngest player on the U.S. roster for the Concacaf Gold Cup, but if the first four years of his professional career are any indication, the uber-talented Italian American is more than capable of competing at the highest levels.
“I want to be in World Cups and I want to win trophies,” Busio said of joining the national team. “The Gold Cup will be the first chance that I have to wear the crest with something on the line for the full men’s national team.”
Busio brimmed with confidence when discussing the trajectory of the U.S. MNT, which defeated Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League Final last month and will use the Gold Cup as a launchpad for the start of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying this fall.
“With the talent we have going into 2022, there’s no way we can’t qualify again,” Busio said of the U.S. MNT “We have guys performing at the highest level and I think we can be a powerhouse. You saw in the (Concacaf Nations League Final) against a good Mexican team, we came through with a bunch of young guys. We’re only going to get better.
“We have a lot of young players coming up and I think we’re definitely going to make some noise—both in the 2022 World Cup and the 2026 World Cup. We should be someone to watch out for and hopefully I can be a part of that team.”
With starts in all 13 MLS matches for Sporting this season and upwards of 70 career appearances under Manager Peter Vermes—not to mention several youth national team stints over the years—Busio is no stranger to the spotlight. That wealth of experience, he says, has equipped him well for whatever comes next.
“I’ve been in a lot of situations as a young kid where you’re playing in big games and you have to win,” Busio said. “I’ve been through a lot of learning experiences at such a young age that, although I’m 19, this is nothing new to me. It’s something that I’ve grown into and I think every game is a big game. I’ve played in full stadiums and in playoff games, so I know that kind of atmosphere.
“I’ve had a lot of pressure being in big moments, and as a young guy trying to make a name for yourself, you have to show up in these big moments. In preseason, I always said I wanted to be that guy—the star of the team—and moments like these are what I meant. When the team needs me, I want to step up and really provide.”