Two years ago Sporting Academy’s Technical Coach, Michel Ribeiro, was at the USDA East Fall Soccer Showcase in North Carolina recruiting players. After a long day of watching games, he was about to leave for the day when he saw a boy on the field make two impressive passes most kids aren’t able to play. Ribeiro decided to stay for 20 more minutes and continued to be amazed by 12-year-old Thomas Mancuso’s abilities.
Mancuso, who is now a freshman at East, thought it was just another game of playing center midfield. It wasn’t until after the game that he learned Ribeiro was talking with his parents about his potential.
“He looked amazingly good,” Ribeiro said. “We spoke to the parents to see if they were open to come on trial with Sporting KC and they did. They came and visited and eventually they moved. It’s so perfect.”
This past spring Sporting made Mancuso an offer on their U15 team, which he gladly accepted after learning the program was designed to develop kids into professional soccer players. He was looking for any opportunity to play on his all time favorite team: Manchester United.
Three weeks before school started, Mancuso said goodbye to his friends, teammates and home town — Greensboro, North Carolina.
“I made the decision to come because Sporting said in their academy ‘you had the potential to go pro’ and that’s all I’ve ever wanted,” Mancuso said. “If they’re going to give me the opportunity I want, I need to take it.”
According to Mancuso’s mother, Chi Nguyen, the decision to move 1,000 miles away was difficult to make. Having a separated family, Mancuso was fortunate his parents and stepparents were able to keep their jobs, allowing them to move. Mancuso’s family wanted him to know they support him in pursuing his dream — even if it means packing a U-Haul and moving to a new city.
Nguyen is confident that they made a wise decision in choosing to move their family to Kansas City.
“They have an actual pathway to become professional and they are an MLS associated team,” Nguyen said. “So if he’s going to become professional, this is where it most likely will come from.”
Mancuso has already noticed a difference between Sporting’s program and his two previous club teams, which were more laid back.
“On other teams you can take a day off and it won’t really matter,” Mancuso said. “People will slack off in practice or won’t care enough, but with Sporting not only do you get very nice utilities that can make you better, but everyone cares and wants to get better and that’s what I think makes Sporting better than other teams.”
Nguyen is confident that Mancuso will meet Sporting’s high level standards, if not exceed them.
“He’s very self-motivated,” Nguyen said. “We don’t have to tell him to get good grades and we really don’t have to tell him to work hard at soccer because he wants it so much. He has always been self motivated and self driven to be better and be the best, so if he’s not the best he’s going to work hard until he is.”