Play the kids: Sporting KC among league leaders in minutes for club's U20 players

Three years ago, Gianluca Busio, Jaylin Lindsey and Cam Duke all started for the Sporting Kansas City Under-16 Academy side.

Each joined the senior team roster in successive years - Busio in 2017, Lindsey in 2018, Duke in 2019 - and earlier this month, the three were once again starting alongside one another at Chlidren's Mercy Park, this time in a professional match against a Major League Soccer opponent.

Sporting Kansas City secured a 1-1 draw on the night against FC Dallas, a result that showcased not only the club's pro player pathway with five Homegrown Players taking the field, but also three of the team's youngest contributors: 18-year-old Busio, 19-year-old Duke and 20-year-old Lindsey, who have logged a combined 1,301 minutes through this year's first dozen regular season games.

That total is third most in MLS when ranking clubs based on minutes played in 2020 by players currently age 20 or younger.

Rank Team Minutes Players
1 FC Dallas 1732 7
2 New York Red Bulls 1350 4
3 Sporting KC 1301 3
4 Philadelphia Union 1142 4
5 LAFC 1140 4
6 Montreal Impact 1072 2
7 New York City FC 1031 2
8 LA Galaxy 1011 4
9 FC Cincinnati 979 1
10 Inter Miami CF 880 3
11 Orlando City SC 836 2
12 San Jose Earthquakes 822 3
13 Atlanta United 811 3
14 D.C. United 725 3
15 Chicago Fire FC 699 2
16 Columbus Crew SC 674 3
17 Colorado Rapids 586 2
18 Toronto FC 536 3
19 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 317 1
20 Portland Timbers FC 295 1
21 Minnesota United FC 104 1
22 Seattle Sounders FC 62 2
22 Houston Dynamo 62 1
24 Real Salt Lake 33 2
25 Nashville SC 0 0
25 New England Revolution 0 0

A total of 18,200 minutes have been played across MLS by 63 players currently age 20 or under. That's 5.98% of total minutes played in the league, highlighting just how rare it can be for players to earn minutes at a young age.

The percentage of minutes played by the Sporting KC trio is significantly higher however at 10.98% of the team's total minutes played in the 2020 regular season. Dive deeper into the data and these other noteworthy nuggets emerge: 

  • Of the 10 players in MLS age 20 or younger to have played at least 600 minutes this season, Busio is the youngest.
  • Busio has also played the most minutes this year in MLS of any American eligible for the 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
  • Sporting is the only team in MLS to have two players currently age 20 or younger play 450 minutes this season.

"It’s one thing for those younger players just to get opportunities. It’s another thing to play consistently over a number of games and to find yourself in a routine and stay calm within it," Peter Vermes told Sports Radio 810 WHB on Friday, emphasizing that they've earned the playing time with their strong performances.

The youth movement is evident beyond just the 28-man senior squad as Peter Vermes also oversees the Sporting KC Academy and Sporting KC II in his dual role as the club's Manager and Sporting Director.

Players age 20 or younger have played 6,058 minutes for Sporting KC II in 2020, accounting for nearly half (47.1 percent) of the team's total minutes. Eighteen-year-old midfielder Jake Davis, a roommate of Busio and Lindsey, and 19-year-old defender Kaveh Rad lead the team in minutes, while 20-year-old striker Wilson Harris became the youngest player to score 20 goals in USL Championship history this year. 

Meanwhile, the Sporting KC Academy kicked off their participation in MLS NEXT this month with a strong start in the development league as the four oldest age groups -- U15's, U16's, U17's and U19's -- went a combined 6-0-1 against Saint Louis FC and Shattuck-St. Mary's.