Can Wilson Harris be the breakout star for Sporting in 2021?

MLS, Sporting KC, Peter Vermes (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)
MLS, Sporting KC, Peter Vermes (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

As Sporting Kansas City prepares for their 26th season in MLS, it has been one of their academy products who has taken preseason by storm.

That academy player is 21-year-old Wilson Harris. The Los Angeles, CA native scored four goals in their preseason stint in Arizona, including a hat trick against Phoenix Rising FC in their preseason opener. That is certainly reason for optimism about his development from a Sporting Kansas City perspective.

Harris joined the Sporting Kansas City Academy in 2017 and quickly made an impact, scoring goals in 10 games for the U-19s. He then signed an Academy contract in 2017 with Sporting’s second team, then named Swope Park Rangers, in the USL Championship, where he tallied three goals in 17 games in 2017.

He returned to SPR in 2019 and recorded 12 goals in 25 games. His biggest year came in 2020 when he earned the USL Championship Young Player of the Year award and scored eight goals in 16 appearances, also becoming the youngest player in league history to reach the 20-goal threshold.

In October of 2020, Harris signed a Homegrown Contract with the first-team but still has yet to see his Sporting KC debut.

How will Harris contribute in 2021?

With the departure of Erik Hurtado, Harris is now second on the Sporting Kansas City depth chart at center forward, entering the regular season behind Alan Pulido.

Pulido was in-and-out of the lineup in 2020 with injuries, so Peter Vermes will likely be a little conservative with the Mexican international’s minutes to start the season. This comes in addition to the possibility of Pulido leaving for international duty and SKC’s compact schedule in August. There is no question that Harris will be given chances this season with the first team.

Harris is best when playing at center forward, but SKC’s lack of depth up top may lead to him getting a spot on either wing from time to time. In the past, he has taken advantage of those chances and proven to be a very good finisher. He isn’t the quickest or most powerful forward around, but he puts himself in good spots to find a goal.

If he can continue to do that at the MLS level, taking the great confidence he gained from last season and in the preseason, that will certainly bode well for Sporting Kansas City. It is now up to him to show that he can produce at the MLS level. A 20-goal season would be a surprise, but a solid 10-goal season as a second-choice forward doesn’t seem to be as far-fetched as it did before preseason.

Follow Nathan Dunn of ‘MLS Multiplex‘ on Twitter @8ndunn