Player spotlight

As Olympics approach, Busio continues development amid Venezia's promotional fight

ASN's Brian Sciaretta spoke with U.S. Olympic team midfielder Gianluca Busio about his development ins Serie B, the promotion hunt ahead, and the quickly approaching Paris games. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 08, 2024
11:00 AM

IN THE MIDDLE of the 2021 MLS season, Gianluca Busio was 19 years old and was surging in his career. He was one of the league’s top teenagers with Sporting Kansas City and had just won the Gold Cup with the men’s national team. The following week, he made a move to a Venezia team that was fresh off promotion to Serie A and Busio was also looking to take a bigger role with the U.S. national team as it started World Cup qualifying.

But development is often non-linear and it is rarely smooth. Busio had some impressive moments in Serie A but his playing time wasn’t always consistent. Venezia was relegated after his first season and he did not make the U.S. World Cup team.

Flash forward two years to 2024, things are back on the upswing for Busio, and he has shown important growth. He is not a luxury player but is rather a player who does the difficult dirty work and is a player Venezia needs to have on the field as it continues a promotion hunt to return to Serie A. The team currently sits fourth in Serie B which is safely in the promotional playoff positions. They are only two points out of the top two for automatic promotion.

“It's in our hands right now,” Busio told ASN from Venice. “It's a close battle. We're going to have to stay locked in and make sure that we don't give up easy points or make little mistakes. It's a good position to be in. Fighting for promotion, that's pretty cool to experience. We're confident. We know that there's a lot at stake. We were built for this moment, we're ready for it… obviously each game has a little more passion and more fight. We know what's at stake.”

He has made big improvements in his game, and this could be seen in a recent win over Pisa when his defense, which was never considered his strength, won a game when he forced a turnover and started a stoppage time counterattack that resulted in the winning goal.

Becoming well-rounded was an important step for Busio to being a contributor to an ambitious team and it is something he is still working on at Venezia where he plays as a box-to-box midfielder with a lot more freedom to join in the attack while fellow American midfielder Tanner Tessmann occupies the No. 6 deeper role.

“It's something that I said I wanted to work on since I signed in MLS,” Busio said of his defense. “I still don't think I'm a great defender. I think it's more just about the intensity and how you defend now, and it's more of a mentality than anything because, I still get deep, but I think it's just the effort and the timing. But it's something that we're still working on.”

But going immediately into an unsuccessful relegation fight and followed by a tough first season in Serie B has also helped him as he progressed out of his teenage years. He was out of the limelight of Serie A, but he was still progressing in cutthroat Serie B.

“It's obviously very different playing when you're in a promotion battle versus a relegation battle,” Busio explained. “When I first moved here, going through that relegation, even the first year in Serie B, where we were near relegation again for the first six months. That kind of helped me a lot. It helped me get to this point where I'm at now.”

“When I first moved, everybody talks about the main differences between relegation and promotion,” he added. “But I moved right into it. I didn't expect a jump that far into it right away. It's kind of a shock… I got the worst of it, the pain of the relegation. Now it's the opposite. It helped me grow into where now I can use what we all learned really was there - to try to help us get promoted.”

Off the field, Busio has a number of things that have helped him in his adjustment. The first is obviously the ability to enjoy life in one of the world’s greatest tourist cities. While he grew up with Italian roots and was fluent before he left the United States, living in Venice has provided him more ways to enjoy life outside of soccer.

“I don't live in the city, it is still a ten-minute drive away,” Busio said. “It just makes a life outside of soccer very easy. If you're bored, you can just go in the city, have a nice lunch, go shopping, enjoy the scenery, take a boat throughout the city. It's special. I live a pretty normal life outside, basic hobbies, hanging out with teammates. But to be able to do that in such a beautiful, historic city - I've enjoyed it. It's played a huge part in enjoying life here on the field and off the field.”

Busio, 21, has also been able to go through the move with Tessmann who also transferred out of MLS with FC Dallas to Venezia at the same time as Busio after both coming up through the domestic homegrown pathway. The two have been able to go through the ups and downs of Venezia together as players within the same age group.

Now they both are regular starters for Venezia and have been part of the club’s rise. Busio credits Tessmann’s performances in defensive midfield position as a big reason why Venezia’s midfield has been a strength.

“We came up together,” Busio said of Tessmann. “We had the same pathway. It's pretty cool that we ended up in the same place in Europe. For both of us, it was difficult the first year or so. There's times where I was playing and he wasn't and then it switched and he would play and I wouldn't.”

“But the off-field, that's what helped us on the field. We grew into really good friends. We knew of each other. We weren't close before or anything. But throughout the years, we really became close. Now it's better that we can show that on the field and put it together.”


As Venezia have pushed for promotion this year, it has reopened the door for the international game to Busio. Along with Tessmann, Busio has been involved with the U.S. U-23 Olympic camps as the team builds towards the Paris Games this summer. In the team’s opening camp, Busio even wore the captain’s armband during a 2-1 win over Mexico in Arizona.

Later this month, the team will hold a camp in France where the U.S. will face the Olympic hosts in an important test. Regarding the tournament, Busio says that he and Tessmann “definitely talk about it a lot” and he believes that their chemistry at Venezia can be important to the U-23 team as well.

But he also knows that making the team will also be challenging as it is a good group of players and the roster size is limited to 18 total players. Other midfielders trying to make the team include Rokas Pukstas from Croatian Cup winners Hajduk Split, Aidan Morris from MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew, Jack McGlynn from the Philadelphia Union, and Josh Atencio from the Seattle Sounders.

“The team is a good group,” Busio said of the U-23 team. “We have good young players in MLS, and in Europe. It's pretty cool because we have guys in very different situations. Some guys who are pushing to get to Europe, some guys who are just starting in MLS, stuff like that. And it's just cool to see the different experiences [and] the different aspirations. Everybody has the fire. You can tell it's a really talented group. Everybody is showing it at some level. This is going to be really special group together.”

Like any American player, Busio’s ultimate goal is to play with the full U.S. national team and he hopes the Olympics will reopen that door.

But for Busio and many others, the Olympics tournament is important in its own end, not just as a means to advance one’s career. The opportunity to win a medal while playing high-caliber opponents in front of a huge television audience is a unique opportunity and it is an event he watched during his childhood.

“A lot of Americans, especially athletes, grew up watching Olympics, not just soccer,” Busio said. “I was watching every sport there. Once I heard we qualified to through the U-20s, I was already locked in. I wanted to try to push for a spot on the team. Now that it's coming closer and closer - it's in the back of my head. My main priority now is in Venice right now. But as soon as the season is done, it's not really offseason. It's preparing for the Olympics because that is a goal of mine and something that I really want to play in. It’s a huge priority.”

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