Sporting Kansas City poised for 2021 run thanks to homegrown talent

Sporting KC
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February 07 2021 05:30 pm

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A season unlike any other ended for the Western’s Conference’s top seed Thursday as Sporting Kansas City fell 0-3 to Minnesota United at Children’s Mercy Park. 

Kansas City’s hometown team had a hometown feel as they took the pitch, thanks to Sporting KC’s Homegrown Player Initiative. 

Overland Park’s Matt Besler is the best known of the team’s local players, but one of the first families of soccer in Overland Park has also produced a trio of pro soccer players in Kansas City. The youngest is a teenager who’s now seeing increased playing time for Sporting.

Cameron Duke started as a Sporting KC ballboy.

“Cameron’s loved soccer all his life and been a Sporting fan since they were the Wizards,” his father Chris said.

But now the 19-year-old is making an impact for the team as a midfielder. He made his debut in July and earned his first start in September. Duke entered Sporting KC’s academy in 2012.

“As academy players, they are seeing what’s taking place; they are practicing next to them. So that’s what they aspire to be, and that’s a great environment to be in,” Chris Duke said.

The club signed the Blue Valley West grad at age 18, a special moment for his dad who played three seasons for the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Kansas City Comets from 1988-1991. On Thursday, he got to see his son in a nationally televised game on FOX. 

“No I couldn’t imagine it back then, but there’s been a lot of special people involved in growing the game here,” he said.

Chris Duke has been one of them and is now a national director of U.S. Youth Soccer working with MLS to develop a scouting network to find players in outlying areas. But sometimes they’re right in their backyard. 

Sporting KC has signed 13 Homegrown Players since the program started in 2007, eight who are currently on the roster. Not all academy signees hail from the area, like 18-year-old budding star Gianluca Busio. But others do like 17-year-old Tyler Freeman from Shawnee.

Cameron’s older brother Christian was a supplemental first round pick for Sporting in 2014 and the first-ever signing for their USL club, the Swope Park Rangers. He’s still playing and chasing his dreams but is also considering a career in coaching.

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