Over the last few years, the Sporting Kansas City Academy has made significant strides as one of the premier hotbeds for player development in the United States.
Bolstered by a tightly knit group of experienced coaches and support staff at the U-12 through U-19 levels, the Academy serves as the all-important first step along Sporting’s professional pathway, which continues upward with the Swope Park Rangers and culminates with the first team led by Manager Peter Vermes.
Founded in 2007, the Academy isn’t far removed from its infancy, but the program has already developed into a vital source of talent for Vermes and Sporting KC. Look no further than Daniel Salloi—the club’s leading scorer in 2018—or any of the other three Academy youngsters who contributed valuably during their first MLS seasons, namely Gianluca Busio, Jaylin Lindsey and Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal.
Throw in the fact that Sporting took home the inaugural MLS Academy of the Year award earlier this month, and it’s clear that the club is making bona fide inroads at the youth level.
Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Sporting have gathered for the 2019 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy. Of the 39 players on Sporting’s preseason roster, exactly one-third have direct Academy ties. Eight Academy products and five current Academy members, all under the age of 23, are competing in Arizona ahead of the 2019 campaign.
Among those 13 players, 10 featured in Sporting’s 4-0 preseason victory over Sporting Arizona FC on Friday at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. That includes the first-team quintet of Salloi, Busio, Lindsey, Kuzain and Tyler Freeman; Rangers trio Felipe Hernandez, Wilson Harris and Will Little; and current Academy standouts Mo Abualnadi and Jake Davis. The allocation of Academy talent at Sporting’s preseason camp is broken down below, including ages for each player.
- Gianluca Busio (16)
- Tyler Freeman (16)
- Jaylin Lindsey (18)
- Daniel Salloi (22)
- Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (20)
Swope Park Rangers
- Felipe Hernandez (20)
- Wilson Harris (19)
- Will Little (20)
- Mo Abualnadi (17)
- Jake Davis (17)
- Tucker Lepley (17)
- Sean Karani (18)
- Brooks Thompson (16)
While Vermes is unlikely to rely on all 13 players at the MLS level in 2019, the experience this group is gaining in Scottsdale should prove valuable well into the future. In an increasingly competitive arms race for talent in MLS, Sporting will continue to leverage the Academy as an invaluable means of cultivating eventual first-team players.