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Outside Red Bull Arena, the clinks of Coronas, a blaring Bad Bunny track and the anxious frenzy of juggling circles score the dusk. Inside, a sprite with copper-tinged hair skates around his contemporaries in hot-pink cleats: Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busiostill weeks shy of his 19th birthday. As soon as I could, I was [off] and kicking. InBusio became the youngest player since Freddy Adu to a Major League Soccer contract, at 15 years, 2 months and 28 days. He soon wanted a tattoo but was too young; his mother, Dionne, conceded that whenever he scored his first goal, he could.

Less than minutes of playing time later, Busio found the net. Dionne thought he'd be 18 when that happened, but just before he turned 17, Busio became the youngest in MLS history to score in three straight games. Suffice it to say Busio's body of work in the literal and figurative sense has been rendered a canvas in constant evolution. Dionne has stopped setting benchmarks for her son.

It's hard to disagree. Most don't leave home to embark on a professional sports career at Most also don't earn the awe of one of the most important names in American men's soccer history before they can vote.

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He was [already] more than good enough to be around the first team. Most aren't the second-youngest American to make a Gold Cup roster in United States men's national team history. In less than 30 minutes on the field, Busio completed He thrived on and off the ball, single-handedly controlling the pace of a United States side expected to make the final.

He may just as soon see the field overseas; sources close to negotiations say a transfer could be completed by next week, with teams in Italy, Portugal and Belgium vying for his services. One could be forgiven for thinking Busio has come across a prodigious rabbit's foot, but, if you ask him, it's all going according to plan.

Having been discovered at a regional tournament by UConn recruiting czar and coach Mike Miller while with the North Carolina Fusion, Busio had just returned from his first youth U. Soccer camp call-up. They'd discussed U. Soccer's developmental academy system, how it replicated European academies and provided a built-in pathway to professional soccer in the United States.

I gotta play with guys like this all the time. In the late s, Dionne worked as a server while earning a bachelor's degree and Ph. One day, a technician for an Italian textile company, who frequented his company's hub in Greensboro, walked in. Dionne told her friend she'd marry Alessandro at first sight. Thirty-two years and three kids later, they're still together.

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Alessandro wasn't much of a player, but he poured his passion into Gianluca and his older brother, Matteo, who played at both UNC Greensboro and Charlotte. Kismet worked its magic on Dionne and Alessandro but left them unprepared for their youngest to concoct a plan at odds with everything Dionne had worked toward. And so their year-old son laid out for them how being in an MLS team's academy would put him among the country's best players. It would allow him to devote more time to soccer, and the path from amateur to pro would be built in.

He researched academies, found contacts and put them in touch with his parents. Be quiet, go do your homework,'" Dionne recalls. This was all him. He'd move 1, miles west and live with a host family. Dionne's sister called up yelling: "How could you send your baby across the country?!

It was like [Gianluca] gained two more parents. Busio, who still celebrates birthdays with the Tiedts, smirks hearing about Dionne's fretting. He works hard, wants to do well, and you see it every day in practice. It just wasn't normal," Zusi says. It's a humble confidence when a guy wants to just soak up every ounce of knowledge he can. Besler would pick up Busio for practice in his Ford F and do radio interviews -- "Maybe that made me seem old" Besler chides -- to and from their training complex.

He has the quality, talent, puts in the work and just keeps getting better. Both Vermes and Berhalter point to Busio's adaptability as what sets him apart from players his age, domestically and abroad. Busio knew with his frame -- 5-foot-7, ish pounds -- he'd never body people off the ball. He'd have to be smarter and quicker to keep up. That's what I leaned on for a while.

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Zusi, who recently missed almost half a year recovering from left foot surgery, says that while rehabbing, he was blown away watching Busio's progression. Busio would fellow American teenager Tanner Tessmann at American-owned Venezia, for what reportedly would be a club-record fee. Commisso, who, like Dionne, came of age in the Bronx. There were also once rumors about Brescia, Alessandro's hometown club and where Busio's idol, Andrea Pirlo, started. I just want to continue to play well enough to make them real. I want to make an impact right away. Busio spent June 30 in a cold sweat.

A week earlier, he'd been told the United States' Gold Cup roster would be finalized that day and, up until 9 p. So, as year-olds are known to, Bus tried to put it out of mind by playing video games with teammates. Another box ticked. One that, despite captaining and scoring the United States' only goal at the U17 World Cup indidn't seem within reach even recently. Over Zoom, I'd ly missed the powder-blue Sporting KC scarf dangling poetically behind him, the only thing decorating the wall adjacent to his computer.

The weight of that color and crest, taking Busio from Greensboro youngster to the U. Because Gianluca felt the family-like structure that Sporting KC created. They did a very good job of laying out a pathway to success for him, [one that] pretty much every step of the way had gone as expected or better.

But there's still games this week, Busio reasons. Only these ones, donning the senior team's colors for the first time, have a splash of gravitas. Multiple sources interviewed doubted that Busio would make the Gold Cup roster, a precedent set by the U23's shunning of the Sporting KC star. Busio wasn't selected for the Olympic qualifying squad and, again, qualification eluded them. Busio's ascendance has reached such a crescendo in soccer's zeitgeist that most of the questions Berhalter fielded when the roster was released centered around him.

I'm just [anxious] to see how he can perform with our group because I think he's a really talented, calm player for his age. I think he can make a big impact. The U. It's been my job to help him do that. Imagine Andy Reid excitedly discussing plans for Patrick Mahomes away from the Kansas City Chiefs and you've arrived at the novelty of this. He has so much more to achieve, and I want to make sure that gets realized.

I believe that he has a really, really high ceiling. I want him to be in a place where he can continue to grow as a player and as a person. I just want him to be happy. Sporting KC's Busio charting his own path to Europe. Barcelona's financial crisis forced Messi out. Does it leave them stuck with Koeman? Ibrahimovic at 40 years old: 40 times Zlatan lived up to his own hype. Commissioner res as NWSL fallout continues.

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