I am not here to say this past weekend was the biggest weekend in Sporting Kansas City history. That honor is reserved for any of the weekends that resulted in a trophy being lifted. But, what am I prepared to argue is that this past weekend was one of, if not the most, significant weekends in club history. And here’s why.
Let’s begin on Saturday afternoon, when the Sporting KC Academy traveled to Tulsa to play the FC Dallas Academy. One month ago, Gianluca Busio became the youngest player to ever sign a contract for Sporting KC and the second youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract. With both Sporting KC and the Swope Park Rangers in the home stretch of their seasons, Busio took the field with the U-19s on Saturday. The 15-year-old striker scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over a Dallas side that fielded multiple professionals and is perennially considered one of the best in the country.
That evening, Sporting Kansas City defeated the New England Revolution 3-1 in front of another sold-out crowd at Children’s Mercy Park. On the bench for Sporting KC were two players, James Musa and Kevin Oliveira, who began the year with the Swope Park Rangers only to earn contracts with the first team. Oliveira entered the match in the 79th minute to make his Sporting KC debut, just one day after signing his MLS contract. He became the fourth player signed from Swope Park Rangers to feature in a first-team match.
Fast forward to Sunday where the Swope Park Rangers took on San Antonio FC in a battle of two of the top four teams in the Western Conference. The Rangers put on a clinical performance, defeating San Antonio 5-2 at Swope Soccer Village. It was not the score that made Sunday’s match significant, but the goalscorers.
The first goal on Sunday came from Nansel Selbol, the 20-year-old forward who plied his trade with the SKC Academy before signing a contract with the Rangers. The second goal came from Felipe Hernandez (pictured, above), another SKC Academy product who has played significant minutes in his first year with the Rangers. Selbol scored his second goal of the day in the 62nd minute to double the lead, while Kharlton Belmar, who signed a Sporting KC contract alongside Oliveira on Friday, scored the team’s fourth goal of the day and his 11th of the season. The cherry on top came in the 80th minute when 17-year-old forward Max Rugova, one of five Academy products to be on the gameday roster, scored his first professional goal off an assist from Mark Anthony Gonzalez. It was a banner day for the SKC Academy with three alums tallying four of the Rangers’ five goals.
When Sporting Kansas City announced in Oct. 22, 2015 that is was starting a club in the USL, Manager Peter Vermes remarked, “This is a great opportunity to fill in an important piece between the Sporting KC Academy and our senior team as part of the long-term vision for our organization.”
If this weekend proved anything, it’s that the pieces between the Academy and the first team are fitting better than ever, and the future of this club is as bright as it has ever been.