Children’s Mercy Preseason Countdown: 11 days until MLS is back


As Sporting Kansas City prepares for its 26th season as a charter member of Major League Soccer, is leading one 26 day countdown to kick off the 2021 campaign. On a delicious opening weekend of MLS action, Sporting Kansas City will visit the New York Red Bulls on April 17th at 7:00 p.m. CT and give fans a first look at manager Peter Vermes’ squad since last December.

The Countdown to the preseason 2021 presented by Children’s Mercy, serves as a comprehensive preview of what is ahead of Sporting Kansas City in the coming weeks and months. The countdown to the preseason 2021 shows the many reasons to look forward to what lies ahead. To visit the series home page, go to

When 19-year-old center-back Kaveh Rad signed a domestic player deal for Sporting Kansas City on Monday, what was once a pipe dream actually became possible.

If he had to, manager Peter Vermes could use a Start-XI made entirely from products from the Sporting KC Academy. Just think about it: Brooks Thompson in goal with bike in defense alongside full-backs Jaylin Lindsey and Cam Duke; a midfield four from Gianluca Busio, Ozzie Cisneros, Felipe Hernandez and Grayson Barber; and a tripartite attack with Tyler Freeman, Wilson Harris and Daniel Salloi.

One day, Sporting could reach the point where it is common to use an XI dominated by Academy products. Finally, the domestic player mechanism applies to 12 of the 28 players on Sporting’s current roster. It should be noted that goalkeeper John Pulskamp has a homegrown day but is not a graduate of the Sporting KC Academy as his homegrown rights were acquired by the LA Galaxy last year.

All this homegrown enthusiasm prepares the stage for a timely edition of our countdown for the 2021 season: How the current roster of Sporting was structured. For the sake of clarity, we classify each player as a Homegrown, MLS Super Draft Pick, or Signing and then provide relevant details related to their arrival in Kansas City.

Local players

  • Daniel Salloi (2016): Sporting’s longest-time homegrown player moved from Hungary to Kansas City as a teenager and reached the MLS level before his 19th birthday.
  • Gianluca Busio (2017): At the age of 15, Busio became the second youngest player in MLS history after signing.
  • Jaylin Lindsey (2018): Lindsey’s signing was announced in September 2017 and his MLS contract went into effect in early 2018. He was 17 when he started his professional career.
  • Tyler Freeman (2019): The second youngest player in sports history grew up in nearby Shawnee, Kansas and turned pro shortly before his 16th birthday.
  • Cam Duke (2019): Unlike the homegrown teammates who came before him, Duke made his professional debut at the MLS level rather than the USL championship. Last summer he made his first pro appearance at the MLS is Back Tournament.
  • Felipe Hernandez (2019): Hernandez became the first player to move all the way from Sporting, advancing from Academy Affiliate to Sporting KC Academy to Sporting KC II to first team.
  • John Pulskamp (2020): As mentioned above, Pulskamp is technically a local player, although he did not develop in the Sporting’s Academy. Sporting acquired its homegrown rights from the galaxy in early 2020.
  • Wilson Harris (2020): Harris signed his first professional contract with Sporting KC II and became the youngest player in USL championship history to hit 20 career goals.
  • Grayson Barber (2021): Barber developed at the Sporting KC Academy and then played college football with Clemson for three years before returning to Kansas City to begin his MLS career.
  • Ozzie Cisneros (2021): Cisneros signed his first pro contract with Sporting at the age of 16.
  • Brooks Thompson (2021): Like Harris, Thompson signed professionally for Sporting KC II in 2019 and is now entering his first year at the MLS level.
  • Kaveh Wheel (2021): Rad has played regularly for Sporting KC II for the past two seasons and signed his first pro contract at the USL Championship in early 2020 before moving to MLS this week.

MLS Super Draft Picks

  • Graham Zusi (2009): The longest-serving active MLS player with a club, Sporting joined Sporting in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft when the club was still known as the Kansas City Wizards.
  • Graham Smith (2018): Here at Sporting, the Grahams represent the MLS SuperDraft.


  • Tim Melia (2015): Sporting signed Melia just before Christmas 2014, the same year he spent a good part of the season as a League Pool goalkeeper.
  • Roger Espinoza (2015): After playing for Kansas City from 2008 to 2012, Espinoza returned in early 2015 with a free transfer from Wigan Athletic in England.
  • Ilie Sanchez (2017): Sanchez was acquired as a signature of discovery in early 2017.
  • Johnny Russell (2018): Russell joined Sporting in early 2018 after being transferred from Derby County FC.
  • Andreu Fontas (2018): Fontas was not tied to any club when he signed for Sporting in August 2018.
  • Luis Martins (2019): Like Fontas, Martins was not tied to any club when he signed for Sporting in August 2019.
  • Roberto Puncec (2020): Puncec was Sportings’ marquee signing in the off-season that ran through 2020.
  • Khiry Shelton (2020): Shelton spent 2018 at Sporting and then played 12 months in Germany at SC Paderborn 07 before returning to Children’s Mercy Park ahead of the 2020 campaign.
  • Alan Pulido (2020): Pulido moved from Chivas de Guadalajara to Sporting.
  • Amadou Dia (2020): Amadou Dia played for Sporting from 2015-2016, spent three seasons in the USL Championship with Phoenix Rising FC and returned to Kansas City in early 2020.
  • Gadi Kinda (2020): Kinda joined Sporting on loan from Beitar Jerusalem in early 2020 and made his move final before this season.
  • Remi Walter (2021): Walter wasn’t tied to any club when he signed for Sporting in late 2020.
  • Kendall McIntosh (2021): McIntosh was acquired through the MLS re-entry process last December and formally signed for Sporting in January.
  • Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (2021): Like Walter, his French compatriot, Isimat-Mirin was not tied to any club when he signed in early February.

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