Sporting Kansas City signs trio of Homegrown Players
Sporting Kansas City announced today that the club has signed 20-year-old midfielder Grayson Barber, 16-year-old forward Ozzie Cisneros and 18-year-old goalkeeper Brooks Thompson as Homegrown Players. All three players have signed multi-year MLS contracts with options.
With the additions of Barber, Cisneros and Thompson, 10 of the 26 players on Sporting Kansas City’s current MLS roster have developed in the club’s academy. The squad’s average age entering the 2021 season is exactly 25 years old.
“I’m delighted to sign for Sporting KC,” Barber said. “It’s really a dream come true to be back in Kansas City after developing in the Academy. I have always dreamed of playing for this club and getting this opportunity is a great feeling.”
“I’m extremely happy to sign a contract with the first team at Sporting KC,” Cisneros said. “This been a dream of mine ever since I first joined the Academy and I’m ready to work my hardest for the club.”
“I’m extremely happy to sign my first MLS contract and join the first team,” Thompson said. “I look forward to what the year has to offer and can’t wait to get to work.”
Barber, a member of the Sporting KC Academy from 2015-2017, enjoyed a standout collegiate career at Clemson University from 2018-2020. The playmaker amassed 13 goals and 18 assists in 49 appearances across three seasons, leading Clemson to the 2019 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals and the 2020 ACC Championship.
Born and raised in central South Carolina, Barber recorded a goal and two assists during his freshman campaign at Clemson before breaking out as a sophomore in 2019. He tallied 10 goals and nine assists en route to All-ACC Second Team honors as the Tigers posted an 18-2-2 record and finished one game short of the Men’s College Cup.
As a junior last fall, Barber and Clemson were crowned winners of the ACC Championship with wins over Virginia Tech, Virginia and Wake Forest. Barber bagged two goals and led the nation with seven assists, helping Clemson to a No. 1 ranking in the final United Soccer Coaches poll of the season. He saved his best performances for the end of the year, setting an ACC Championship record with four assists in the tournament.
Before arriving at Clemson, Barber starred for the Sporting KC Academy and was named to the United Soccer Coaches Youth Boys All-America Team at the end of 2017. He moved from South Carolina to Kansas City to begin his Academy journey in 2015 and made nearly 60 appearances in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy over the next three seasons. He also featured for the United States at the youth international level, training with the U-17s in 2016 and joining the U.S. U-17 Residency Program the following spring in Bradenton, Florida.
Cisneros, who has competed for Sporting at the U-13 through U-19 levels over the last five years, becomes the fourth-youngest signing in Sporting history at age 16. The versatile forward is one of the brightest American prospects in his age group and represented the U.S. U-15 Boys’ National Team throughout 2018 and 2019. He notably starred at the 2019 Concacaf U-15 Championship in Bradenton, scoring both goals in a 2-0 quarterfinal win over Costa Rica, and also found the back of the net at the 2019 Torneo delle Nazioni in Italy.
A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Cisneros joined the Sporting KC Academy as a 12-year-old in 2016. That summer, he led Sporting to a fourth-place finish at the Concacaf U-13 Champions League in Mexico City. Cisneros went on to play almost 70 matches for Sporting in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, scoring 15 goals and climbing to the U-19 ranks by the time he was 15. He helped the U-17s reach the 2019 Development Academy Playoffs and split time between the U-17s and U-19s during the first half of the 2019-20 campaign.
Following a six-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cisneros and the Sporting KC Academy returned to competitive action last September in MLS Next, a newly launched youth platform featuring elite academy clubs from across the country. Cisneros struck twice during the abbreviated fall season—once for the U-17s and once for the U-19s. He was also featured extensively in “The Academy,” a five-part documentary series from Audi and Bleacher Report that highlighted youth development within the Sporting KC Academy system.
Thompson, who will return from injury this summer to continue playing, has two seasons of professional experience with Sporting Kansas City II in the USL Championship. He led Sporting KC II goalkeepers during the shortened 2020 campaign with 26 saves and a 1.17 goals against average in six matches.
The 6-foot-3 Thompson exploded for a career-high nine saves in his 2020 debut on July 18 at Indy Eleven, including one that placed second in USL Championship Fans’ Choice Save of the Year voting. He earned his first professional clean sheet two weeks later against the same team, saving four shots in a 1-0 win to land USL Championship Team of the Week honors. Thompson collected his second victory of the season by making another four saves in a 2-1 result at FC Tulsa on Aug. 29.
Thompson, who grew up in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, joined the Sporting KC Academy in the summer of 2018 following a two-year stint with the IMG Academy in Florida. He played a leading role for the U-19s during the 2018-19 Development Academy campaign, posting a 7-2-3 record with four clean sheets while also featuring in the Generation adidas Cup.
After logging two preseason appearances for the Sporting KC first team in early 2019, Thompson made his jump to the USL Championship in March of that year. At 16, he became the youngest professional signing in Sporting KC II history and claimed victory in his pro debut against Hartford Athletic on July 17, 2019, at Children’s Mercy Park.
Barber, Cisneros and Thompson join Gianluca Busio, Cam Duke, Tyler Freeman, Wilson Harris, Felipe Hernandez, Jaylin Lindsey and Daniel Salloi as Academy products on Sporting’s roster. For a full list of Sporting’s offseason roster moves ahead of the 2021 MLS campaign, visit SportingKC.com/tracker.
Transaction: Sporting Kansas City (MLS) signs midfielder Grayson Barber, forward Ozzie Cisneros and goalkeeper Brooks Thompson as Homegrown Players.
Born: 5/3/2000 (20 years old)
Weight: 165 lbs.
Hometown: Blythewood, South Carolina
Birthplace: Columbia, South Carolina
Born: 3/13/2004 (16 years old)
Weight: 140 lbs.
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska
Born: 5/28/2002 (18 years old)
Weight: 185 lbs.
Hometown: Floyds Knobs, Indiana
Birthplace: Jeffersonville, Indiana
Sporting KC Homegrown Players from SKC Academy
(Age upon signing in parenthesis)
2010 – Goalkeeper Jon Kempin (17)
2011 – Defender Kevin Ellis (19)
2013 – Defender Erik Palmer-Brown (16)
2016 – Forward Daniel Salloi (19) *
2017 – Midfielder Gianluca Busio (15) *
2017 – Defender Jaylin Lindsey (17) *
2018 – Defender Matt Lewis (21)
2018 – Forward Zach Wright (22)
2018 – Midfielder Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (19)
2018 – Forward Tyler Freeman (15) *
2019 – Midfielder Cam Duke (18) *
2019 – Midfielder Felipe Hernandez (21) *
2020 – Forward Wilson Harris (20) *
2021 – Midfielder Grayson Barber (20) *
2021 – Forward Ozzie Cisneros (16) *
2021 – Goalkeeper Brooks Thompson (18) *
* Denotes player on current team