Off the PitchOct 25, 2018

Sweet Sixteen: Gianluca Busio

At just 14 years-old, Gianluca Busio found himself leaving his family and the comforts of his Greensboro, North Carolina home behind. His journey had started in the North Carolina Fusion development academy, but it wasn't long before he was called up to the U15 national team where his play drew the attention of MLS clubs. While he and his parents went through the recruiting process, his family struggled with the idea of their youngest leaving home so soon.  However, after meeting with several teams and their academies, they ultimately decided that Sporting Kansas City would be the teen's new home. Busio admits that leaving wasn't easy for him, or for his parents, but credits his determination to achieve his dream of playing professionally as the key to making it through an understandably  difficult transition. 

After just one year with Sporting KC's academy, the club signed him to a Homegrown contract that secured him a spot as the second-youngest player to be signed in MLS history. While he initially debuted with the Swope Park Rangers of the USL, Busio found himself making his first MLS appearance this past July.  Since then, he has made 7 appearances for the club, and scored his first career goal on October 17th. At just 16 years and 142 days old at the time of the goal, Busio is the second-youngest player to score in MLS history. 

Q: First, can you talk about your path to MLS?

I grew up in North Carolina, that’s where I was born and raised. My Dad was born in Italy, so soccer was everything in our family. I have an older brother and he played so I was always looking up to him. My whole family was involved in soccer so I just grew up around it. I played for a small academy team in North Carolina for two or three years before I got my first call-up to the U15 National Team. After that, I started getting more interest from MLS teams wanting me to come to their academies. My parents and I started going on trips to tour the different academies and went through the whole recruiting process. Eventually, we chose Sporting Kansas City and I played for a year with their academy. I ended up having a good enough year that they offered me a homegrown contract and of course I took it. Now I’m in my first full year on the team and it’s been great. Not only has it been a great learning experience, but it’s been great for my development. I’ve just been happier than ever with the club.

Q: You were actually the one who first brought up leaving home to play, what was your parent’s reaction?

When I first brought it up, my mom shut it down right away. I’m still her baby, I’m the youngest of my whole family and she wasn’t expecting me to leave so early so it was a quick ‘No.’ But as I kept on getting better and getting into more national team camps and showing that I had the chance to be something, she started to realize it could be a big step for me and didn’t want to hold me back. Every week I was researching how to get into MLS academies and talking to my family, they were still pretty keen on saying no until they really realized it was a good step for my future. It was my dream to be a professional soccer player, and they didn’t want to hold me back from that. It was still tough for them when more teams started showing interest and they knew that eventually I would be moving away. But they knew that for me to follow my dream we were all going to have to make sacrifices. They understood that and they 100% support me and even when they aren’t with me, I still feel that support from home.

Q: Was it difficult for you to leave home at such a young age?

I definitely mainly was thinking about soccer, and I saw guys playing for the first team and I knew that that was something I wanted to do. So it was mainly just me caring about soccer, but it did hit me the first couple of months when I actually moved to Kansas. I realized ‘Wow, I’m actually away from home, I can’t talk to my family that much or see them everyday.’ It was definitely a lot harder than I expected. That first month was very difficult. I didn’t know anybody there, I wasn’t playing that much just because I was new guy. I didn’t have any friends yet, so that's when being away from home really hit me. Once I got through that month though, everything got a lot better, I was playing more and I made some friends and that made it a lot easier. I still miss home of course, but I’m doing what I think is best for my career.

Q: Are there people who have served as mentors for you throughout this process?

I would say that everybody on our team has helped me or tried to help me in some way because they realize that it’s difficult being a young guy. All of them are good guys. It’s definitely easier having a guy like Jaylin Lindsey on the team with me because he’s 18 and it’s his first year too so he’s basically going through the same stuff as I am. So it helps being close with him because we’re going through the same problems and we can get through them together. But the older guys definitely do make it a lot easier. All of them are great role models and they want the best for me, even if that means being tough sometimes. I respect them and I know that they are always trying to do what’s best for me.

Q: How do you manage being in high school and playing professionally?

It’s difficult sometimes, just because obviously none of the other guys on the team are having to go do schoolwork after practice. So it can be hard to stay focused knowing that I still have to do school when I get home. But it’s something I have to do so I make myself get it done even when I don’t want to. Coming home after a long day of training you don’t always feel like doing a few hours of work, but it’s school and everybody has to go through it. It’s very important to me and my family to have an education.  I also definitely want to do online college classes, even if I have to go through it slowly. Even if I don’t start right after I graduate high school, it’s important to me to get my degree at some point.

Q: How did scoring your first goal feel, what was that moment like?

I honestly still couldn’t believe it until after the game when I was seeing the video and everyone was saying ‘Congratulations.’ In the game of course I want to score, but I wasn’t really thinking about it. I was just out there trying to do what’s best for the team, and scoring goals is a big way to help the team win obviously. I love scoring goals, everybody does no matter what age you are or where you’re playing, whether it’s for fun or professionally. It was great to get my first one and hopefully I can score many more. The feeling whether it’s your first or your 30th feels just as good and they are all important.

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Q: Did you realize you were the second-youngest goal scorer in MLS history?

Honestly, I found out on Twitter! I knew that if I scored I would be one of the youngest but I wasn’t paying attention to it that much, I  just wanted to score. Obviously though it’s a really cool accomplishment. Hopefully I’ll just keep going forward and keep on scoring from here.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your career?

It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the World Cup. I think it is for every kid, I mean you grow up watching it on tv and I spent this whole summer watching it and it’s one of the best feelings ever. I’ve always wanted to represent my country there. It could be when I’m a lot older, or it could be when I’m young, so I’m just going to keep working towards it and hopefully I’ll get there eventually.

You can follow Gianluca on Twitter and Instagram