The Sporting Kansas City Academy received 2018 MLS Academy of the Year honors on Thursday during Major League Soccer’s 2018 Club Executive Awards Ceremony in Chicago, held at Theater on the Lake in conjunction with the 2019 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas.
Sporting won the inaugural award for its exemplary player development under Academy Director Jon Parry and a dedicated team of coaches and support staff at the U-12 through U-19 levels.
Sporting has applied a holistic approach to player development at the youth level, cultivating a professional pathway from the Academy to Swope Park Rangers to the first team. With an experienced coaching and leadership staff, outstanding player care, a large network of Academy Affiliates spanning the Midwest and continued investment in first-class facilities, the Sporting KC Academy is committed the growth and improvement of all players within is professional pathway.
Sporting currently has five Academy products on its first team roster, including 22-year-old forward Daniel Salloi — who led the team with 16 goals in all competitions in 2018 — as well as a quartet of players who experienced breakthroughs last season: 20-year-old midfielder Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal, 18-year-old defender Jaylin Lindsey, 16-year-old midfielder Gianluca Busio and 16-year-old forward Tyler Freeman.
Kuzain, Lindsey and Busio were three of 12 Academy products who earned playing time for the Swope Park Rangers throughout the 2018 USL Championship season. These players made a combined 135 appearances as the Rangers advanced to the USL Cup Playoffs for the third straight year.
The Sporting KC Academy has also left imprints on the international stage. Since 2010, 25 Academy products have earned youth or senior international call-ups, including Salloi (Hungary Men’s National Team), Lindsey (USA U-20s), Busio (USA U-17s) and Freeman (USA U-16s).
The Academy boasts a robust staff devoted to player development, including six head coaches from U-12 through U-19 plus one technical coach, two goalkeeper coaches and two fitness coaches. The staff also has multiple team administrators, trainers and physicians as well as a director of player care, nutritionist and Academy scout.
Swope Soccer Village serves as the Academy’s state-of-the-art training facilities with nine full-size fields. Players also have periodic access to the Pinnacle National Development Center, the world-class training home of Sporting KC’s first team.
The Academy also holds a close relationship with the Sporting Club Network, an affiliation program with clubs that cover nine states, 40 cities and reach more than 20,000 youth players throughout the Midwest. The combined membership of the program exceeds 70,000 members, highlighted by the largest Academy Affiliate program in the U.S. with 14 branded affiliates representing the Sporting name and helping support the club’s overarching player development goals.