Meet the USMNT Newbies on the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Roster

USYNT products Gianluca Busio and James Sands will get their first chance with the USMNT during the Gold Cup
By: Michael Lewis

With strong showings in MLS this season, U.S. Youth National Team products Gianluca Busio and James Sands will take in their first camp with the U.S. Men’s National Team during the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Learn about the two USMNT newbies:

Gianluca Busio, midfielder

Talk about being on a fast track. At 15 years and 89 days, Greensboro, N.C. native Gianluca Busio decided to move halfway across the country to become the second-youngest player to sign with an MLS club, putting pen to paper with Sporting Kansas City as a Homegrown Player on Aug. 25, 2017. (Freddy Adu, at 14 years, 170 days, is the youngest player.)

Sporting realized it had someone special as Busio scored nine goals and earned Central Conference Best XI honors with its Under-16 squad during the 2016-17 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season. He also was a member of the U.S. U-17 team that competed in the U-17 World Cup in Brazil in 2019, and follows Bryang Kayo, Chituru Odunze and Gio Reyna as the fourth player from that squad to earn a USMNT call-up.

Now 19, Busio is adding performance to his promise, making great strides with Sporting Kansas City as a center midfielder on both sides of the ball.

The 5-7 midfielder won MLS Goal of the Week honors for his 27-yard free kick over the Houston Dynamo's five-man wall in Sporting's 3-2 comeback win on May 29. He became the youngest MLS player, and the first teenager, to score from a direct free kick since Opta began tracking the statistic in 2010. It also was the first time Busio recorded a goal and an assist in a game.

Through June 27, Busio has registered seven goals and seven assists in 60 MLS matches.

James Sands, defender

James Sands made history before he even kicked a ball for New York City FC, becoming the MLS team's first Homegrown Player signing at the age of 16 in June 2017. He made his pro debut, replacing Italian national team great Andrea Pirlo, in the 67th minute of a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 16 later that year.

He started his NYCFC career as a defensive midfielder but was switched to center back after the team moved to a three-man backline.

The 6-1 center back has become accustomed to performing for multiple sides during the year. While finishing up a two-year stint with the U.S. Under-17 National Team, he helped the squad to a second-place finish at the 2017 Concacaf U-17 Championship. He went on to make the U.S. squad at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India later that year, teaming with the likes of current USMNT players Sergiño Dest, Bryan Reynolds, Josh Sargent and Tim Weah to push the side to a quarterfinal finish.

In 2018, Sands played a role in helping the NYCFC U-18/19 team capture the U.S. Soccer Development Academy title in its age division and earned East Conference Best XI honors before returning home to start three games for the first team. He has been a regular since.

Sands has a twin brother, Will, who played alongside him in the NYCFC Academy. Sands will turn 21 on July 6, which will coincidentally be the day of his first USMNT training session.