From LA to KC: Wilson Harris looks to continue upward trajectory at Sporting Kansas City

Bolstering their attacking depth, Sporting Kansas City announced the signing of 20-year-old forward Wilson Harris on Wednesday. The youngest player in USL Championship history to surpass 20 career goals will now suit up for the first team after three years in the Sporting KC system.

The Los Angeles native found his way to the heart of the Midwest after taking the leap to become a professional, leaving his academy team in Southern California and joining the Sporting KC Academy in 2017—all during the summer before his senior year of high school and after forgoing his commitment to play collegiately at the University of Louisville.

After a stellar introductory campaign within the Sporting KC Academy, scoring more goals than the forward had appearances in the 2017-2018 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season, Harris made the transition to professional soccer with Swope Park Rangers during the subsequent 2018 season. From there, Harris’ young career took off as he not only became the youngest player to bag 20 career goals in USL Championship but also landed at 11th on the chart for goals scored in the 2020 USL Championship season—the youngest player that high on the list.

“I’ve been around the guys for about three years now so it’s just good to finally get started up,” Harris said of his fellow Sporting teammates. “It feels natural since I’ve been around them for so long and with guys on the first team as well. I think it was the right step for me to take and it’s nice to have those guys around.”

Harris brings a knack for finding the back of the net and an ability to change the trajectory of a match with one kick. Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes is confident in the decision to promote Harris to the first team and in what the forward can add to a team with veteran attackers all over the pitch.

“He’s for sure a consistent goal scorer,” Vermes said Thursday. “He has a great nose for the goal—in and around the goal. He reads the game really well whenever the ball is close to the box. It’s hard to find players like that, let alone ones that are within your system. In the end, it was a very easy decision.”

“When our guys recruited him here, we already kind of knew about his prowess around the net,” Vermes added. “Then you want to see how that guy continues to manage himself as he goes up the ladder; guys are more physical, athletic, tougher, more mature, more experienced, all those things. He continued to show that he was up for the challenge. The one thing he does is he doesn’t drop off. He always finds a way to score. That’s a tough thing in this sport and he has a nose for it.”

However, with confidence comes caution as Vermes knows that first-team promotion can introduce a good deal of pressure, especially on young players such as Harris.

“I told Wilson this the other day, just because you sign a contract doesn’t mean you’re now a professional on the first team,” Vermes said. “It means that you have an opportunity now to get in, get better, show you can play, show you deserve to be here and continue to use it as a steppingstone to get to the next objective that the individual player has for themselves.”

For Harris, his next objective is to contribute to the first team and continue the success he found at the Championship level and for the forward, the steppingstone that Vermes referred to will be reached by relying on what he’s learned over the course of his career—constant growth and personal belief.

“I think it’s just consistency and training, trusting the process and always believing in yourself,” Harris said. “It comes down to hard work and persistence and knowing that eventually you’ll get your chance, especially if you’re in this system.”

As the attack-minded Harris prepares to join a team that already sits at fifth in MLS with 31 total goals on the season, Vermes sees him adding depth to the squad, being able to fill in for veteran strikers on international duty and giving the team that crucial spark deep into matches.

“He has quality,” Vermes said. “I think he will hold his own in an MLS game right out of the chute. He trains with the guys and does well. I don’t see him having real difficulty in an MLS game.”

As Harris has been a part of the Sporting KC system for three years to this point, the California native feels like he’s in the right place as he looks to grow his career with Sporting Kansas City.

“Coming to Kansas City from Los Angeles, I’ve really come to love it and it’s become a second home to me,” Harris said, adding, “I feel blessed and honored to be a part of this organization and I’m super excited to get started.”

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