Gathered around the TV in his home in Greensboro, North Carolina, Gianluca Busio watched the U.S. under-17 men’s national team battle to a quarterfinal finish in the 2017 U-17 World Cup in India.‘
“That’s going to be you next (World Cup) year,” Busio’s mother, Dionne, told him.
The 15-year-old had just finished his first professional season with Sporting Kansas City. Dreams of a World Cup appearance were but a distant goal.
But less than two years later, Busio took the field with the U-17 national team, wearing the captain’s armband at the 4 Nations Tournament. He was leading some of the most promising American youth in the game right now — not just playing alongside them, but truly leading them.
It was during this trip to the the Netherlands that Busio realized his dream was about to come true. He and his teammates would likely be the final squad for the World Cup two months later.
Busio began watching video highlights of former U-17 World Cups, preparing himself to play on the biggest stage of his career so far.
“It’s special to me,” Busio said. “It’s probably one of the biggest tournaments you can play in as a youth player. I mean, it is the biggest one you can play in as a youth player.”
So when the email finally arrived in his inbox last week confirming Busio would be heading to Brazil this month for the 2019 World Cup, the young midfielder could finally celebrate the idea he had envisioned since he was a young child.
“I was telling my family and everything and they were all excited,” Busio said. “It’s always been a dream of mine as a kid to play in any kind of World Cup, so it was definitely a really special moment for me.”
Most excited for him was his mother.
“She was probably just as happy as me,” Busio said. “She’s always been my number one supporter and she knows this has been a dream of mine.”
With 29 league appearances for Sporting KC over the past two seasons, Busio enters the World Cup as the most experienced professional to ever take the field at a World Cup at the U-17 level for the U.S.
Despite playing the majority of his games for Sporting KC rooted deep in the midfield, Busio has occupied a more advanced and fluid central position for the national team.
Busio scored five goals and had three assists in six appearances during the CONCACAF U-17 championship as the Americans finished runners-up. He’s part of an exciting attacking group of players for the U.S. that also includes Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna and the Seattle Sounders’ Daniel Leyva.
“I think we’re a really exciting team going forward. We like to play a nice style of soccer — we like to keep the ball a lot,” Busio said.
Busio linked up well with winger Reyna. The pair combined for 11 goals in the tournament. It’s a partnership Busio says he hopes to keep up into the World Cup, when he expects Reyna to be his main target.
The U.S. kicks off its quest for its first U-17 World Cup championship against Senegal in Group D on Oct. 27 at 2:50 p.m. The U.S. will also face Japan and the Netherlands on Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, respectively.