KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) – Sporting Kansas City has made it quite clear that age doesn't mean a whole lot these days.
The club that signed 16-year-old Erik Palmer-Brown a few years ago announced Friday it had agreed to a homegrown contract with Gianluca Busio, making the 15-year-old forward from North Carolina the youngest to sign with an MLS club since Freddy Adu joined D.C. United in 2004.
Adu, who became a U.S. national team staple, was 14 when he joined Major League Soccer.
''Since I was a kid, I always dreamed of being a professional soccer player,'' said Busio, who has spent the past year playing for Sporting KC's youth programs. ''From the day I arrived in Kansas City, they have made me feel like part of the family.''
Busio was born and raised in Greensboro and began playing elite soccer for the North Carolina Fusion, a U.S. Soccer developmental academy, before joining Sporting KC's academy. He now lives with a host family and attends high school in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas.
He began playing for Sporting KC's Under-14 team before moving quickly through the ranks, eventually earning playing time with the Under-18 team and scoring in its regular-season finale.
That rapid rise caught the attention of scouts, and he began to hear overtures from Premier League clubs in Europe along with interest from several other MLS clubs. A few offered him contracts, but Busio decided to remain with one of the league's perennial powerhouses.
''Gianluca is a very talented player who has the opportunity to progress along our professional pathway from the academy to the first team,'' Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. ''He fits our style of play, has great vision on the field and can score goals from several different positions.''
Busio will likely spend the upcoming season with the club's under-17 programs, but he could join the senior team soon. Palmer-Brown needed only nine months before debuting in Sporting KC's defense.
Busio's contract runs through 2020 with options for 2021 and 2022.
''As Gianluca continues to develop,'' Vermes said, ''the structure of our club will allow him to take steps toward his objective of playing at the top level for Sporting KC in the future.''