"This Week in Sporting," presented by The Smile Generation, is a weekly series that highlights the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City. To visit the series archive, click here.
1. Busio Takes 10
Sporting Kansas City has a new No. 10. Academy product Gianluca Busio, an 18-year-old midfielder and one of the best teenage players in American soccer, has swapped No. 27 for No. 10 ahead of the 2021 MLS campaign.
In addition to announcing Busio's jersey number update today, Sporting confirmed jersey numbers for each of the club's new signings in 2021.
- #5 Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (newcomer)
- #10 Gianluca Busio (wore #27 in 2020)
- #19 Grayson Barber (newcomer)
- #22 Kendall McIntosh (newcomer)
- #25 Ozzie Cisneros (newcomer)
- #31 Brooks Thompson (newcomer)
- #54 Remi Walter (newcomer)
2. One Week Closer
One week from today, Sporting Kansas City players will begin a seven-day quarantine period prior to kicking off preseason training on Monday, March 8. The preseason report date allows for six weeks of training before Major League Soccer’s 26th season kicks off the weekend of April 17. Sporting will announce more preseason details in the near term as Manager Peter Vermes' men prepare for a 34-game MLS campaign that will run through Nov. 7, followed by the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
3. Roster Update
Sporting's current 27-player squad, highlighted by French newcomers Remi Walter and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin as well as returning stars like Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell, is listed below. For a full list of the club's offseason roster moves, visit SportingKC.com/tracker.
Goalkeepers (4): Kendall McIntosh, Tim Melia, John Pulskamp, Brooks Thompson
Defenders (8): Amadou Dia, Andreu Fontas, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, Jaylin Lindsey, Luis Martins, Roberto Puncec, Graham Smith, Graham Zusi
Midfielders (8): Grayson Barber, Gianluca Busio, Cam Duke, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Hernandez, Gadi Kinda, Ilie Sanchez, Remi Walter
Forwards (7): Ozzie Cisneros, Tyler Freeman, Wilson Harris, Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell, Daniel Salloi, Khiry Shelton
4. Open Cup Returns
Sporting announced last week that defender Roberto Puncec has received his U.S. green card and no longer occupies an international spot on the club’s roster. The club currently has six international players heading into the 2021 MLS campaign: defenders Andreu Fontas, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Luis Martins, midfielders Gadi Kinda and Remi Walter, and forward Alan Pulido. That leaves two open international slots at Sporting's disposal.
Puncec, 29, enjoyed a strong first season in MLS as the club's Defensive Player of the Year in 2020. The Croatian center back appeared in all but one of Sporting’s 21 regular season matches, starting 18, and went the full 90 minutes in each of the team’s seven shutout efforts. Puncec also finished with team-highs in passes (910), successful passes (793), interceptions (25), clearances (59) and blocks (11). He added an assist on the attacking end 17 minutes into his MLS debut, setting up Alan Pulido’s goal in a season-opening win at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Feb. 29.
5. Transfer Window Shift
Major League Soccer confirmed last week that FIFA has approved amended dates for the U.S. and Canadian Primary Transfer Windows. The Primary Transfer Windows will both open on March 10 and remain open until June 1. The Secondary Transfer Windows for the U.S. and Canada will remain as previously announced: July 7 to Aug. 5, 2021.
- Primary Transfer Window: Wednesday, March 10 – Tuesday, June 1, 2021
- Secondary Transfer Window: Wednesday, July 7 – Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021
The transfer windows are the periods in which MLS teams can officially register any new players who were previously under contract with clubs based outside MLS and for which an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) is required. While deals may be agreed upon outside these windows, the transfer and receipt of an ITC are required in order to officially add a player to a roster, thus allowing him to be eligible for official competitions.
6. Panka Joins SKC II
Sporting Kansas City II has added 21-year-old Dutch winger David Panka to the roster ahead of the 2021 USL Championship season, the club announced Friday.
Panka arrives in Kansas City following a six-month stint in Poland with Miedz Legnica in the 1 Liga. After starting the summer with Miedz Legnica II in the 3 Liga, the winger swiftly moved up to the first team and went on to play in 12 games, scoring once, while also making one appearance in the Polish Cup. Panka spent his developmental years with a host of clubs in his native Netherlands, representing Vitesse Arnhem, SV Spakenburg, Roda '46 Leusden, SC Cambuur-Leeuwarden and RKC Waalwijk.
7. DEI Officer
Major League Soccer announced today that Sola Winley has been hired as the league's Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. Winley brings a wealth of experience to the position with a 27-year career that has included tenures with the National Football League, A+E Television Networks and his own consulting and advisory companies.
As part of his role with MLS, Winley will lead the efforts to increase representation, advancement and retention of underrepresented groups in the front offices of the league and clubs, as well as the technical and coaching staffs with the teams. He will also oversee MLS’ initiatives to drive access, exposure, opportunity and participation in soccer in underserved communities, and develop strategies to increase diversity among the league’s vendors and partners.