Photo Credit: Kent Auf Der Heide/Swope Park Rangers
As a 15-year-old, certain things seemed so important at the time: preparing for your driver’s license test, school dances, simply being cool and popular, etc. For Gianluca Busio, his priorities before his 16th birthday were a bit different. The Sporting Kansas City player was working on breaking into the Swope Park Rangers’ rotation, being in the correct attacking position, how to get past defenders twice his age, etc.
Busio signed a professional contract with Sporting KC when he was 15 years and 89 days old, making him the youngest player to sign an MLS deal since Freddy Adu. I know the teenage version of myself would have spent any money possible on jerseys, fast food, and nonsense. Gianluca was more thoughtful with his new income, buying him and his family Apple watches.
He also treated himself to a new Xbox, on which he plays his favorite games, Fortnite and EA Sports’ FIFA. While I don’t think Busio or his generation would truly appreciate my teenage game of choice Halo, he does have great taste in a soccer idol from my era.
With his dad being Italian, Gianluca tabs Andrea Pirlo as his favorite player growing up. He also adds that Messi was a big inspiration, “as a little guy doing crazy things.”
He should know what that’s like, as a teenager playing in the second division of North American soccer against proven veterans. He’s made six appearances for Swope Park and has an assist to his name. What’s surprised the youngster in his early pro career? “So far, mainly it’s the speed of the game. It’s a lot quicker than the youth levels, but I feel like I’ve adapted to it well,” Busio answers. “Everything is a little faster and everybody is stronger. It’s a change for me to get to that level, but I’m getting there slowly and it’s helping me become a better player.”
Another big part of his development is his time with the United States U-17 squad. Describing the excitement of wearing that United States kit, Gianluca says, “Every time I wear it I have a lot of pride for it. It’s maybe the youth team right now, but that goes up into the senior USMNT. That’s always been a dream of mine.”
“Every time I go out there it’s a big opportunity for me and it’s amazing to represent your country. With them bringing in more young guys to camp, it’s a big inspiration for me to get there as they go younger and younger, which is better for me because I’m a young guy.”
With the United States set to host the 2026 World Cup, I would expect the SKC forward to be right in the mix to represent the red, white, and blue. If you’re an USL fan, you will want to catch Busio in action with Swope Park now while you can. Because like Mims, The Shop Boyz, and Soulja Boy, who all had hits when I was his age, he won’t be around long. Next stop, Major League Soccer.