Discover more from It's Called Soccer
Folarin Balogun Commits to the USMNT
A New Star Rises for the USA
In a momentous decision that could reshape the future of the United States Men's National Team, promising Arsenal forward Folarin Balogun has elected to represent the United States, the nation of his birth, at the international level. The official confirmation of his switch from England arrived after FIFA approved his application, marking a pivotal turning point in the young player's career.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and moving to London when he was only two, Balogun possesses an intriguing and complex international identity. This multifaceted heritage has made him eligible to play for the US, England, and even Nigeria. His trajectory started in the US youth system, where he represented the country at the under-18 level before making a switch to England. Furthermore, FIFA's rules facilitated Balogun's recent change of allegiance, allowing players to shift their national eligibility provided they have not made a competitive senior appearance at the international level.
After an impressive 2022-23 campaign on loan at Stade de Reims, scoring 19 goals in 34 league appearances, Balogun’s international allegiance has been a topic of intense speculation. His decision, made in conjunction with his family, is a testament to the allure of returning to his roots.
Speaking on his decision, Balogun said, “My decision to represent the United States, it came together with my family. We decided it would be the right thing for me, to represent the country I was born in. In the end, it became a no-brainer, but for sure, it’s just something I wanted to do, and it feels like I’m at home here.” His statement reflects a profound sense of pride and honor in representing the US and a firm commitment to contribute to the team's success.
USMNT Head Coach Anthony Hudson expressed his delight, lauding not only Balogun’s football skills but also his personal qualities. Hudson said, “Not only is he an extremely talented player, he’s also a good man who is going to add value to our national team both on and off the field at a time when the team is continuing to improve. It’s clear that he values his U.S. roots, and we can’t wait for him to come in and be a part of the team.”
Balogun's decision was not without its dilemmas. Earlier this year, he was selected for England's Under-21 squad for the fixtures against France and Germany, but had to withdraw due to a hamstring injury. During the same period, Balogun was in Orlando, where the USMNT was training. Hudson acknowledged "discussions" during that time, seizing the "opportunity to share about our program."
England manager Gareth Southgate, on the other hand, took a philosophical view of the situation. He stated that any player should follow where their heart truly lies. Southgate was open about England's approach to young talents, which is more about patience rather than rushing them into the senior side for fear of losing them to other nations.
Balogun, in his early career, has already shared the pitch with current USMNT players Taylor Booth, Aidan Morris, and Bryan Reynolds during his stint with the U.S. Under-18s in 2018. His familiarity with his fellow countrymen and his recent impressive form are promising indicators of his positive impact on the USMNT.
The United States Men's National Team will next face Mexico on June 16 in the CONCACAF Nations League. The upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup, hosted in the U.S. between June 24 and July 16, will provide Balogun with an excellent platform to showcase his talent and commitment to his new team.
This shift in international allegiance brings an air of excitement for U.S. soccer. Balogun's decision to embrace the stars and stripes is a testament to the growing appeal of American soccer to dual-national players. His choice is symbolic of a broader trend: an increasingly competitive USMNT capable of attracting talented young footballers, even those developed in renowned European leagues.
Balogun's successful tenure at Reims has demonstrated his knack for finding the back of the net, an ability the USMNT will hope translates onto the international stage. His decision to represent the U.S. seems driven by a blend of personal ties to his birth country and a calculated professional move. The young striker sees an opportunity to quickly break into the senior squad and leave an indelible mark.
Looking ahead, Balogun has a considerable task at hand - to prove himself at the international level. The upcoming fixtures present a golden opportunity for him to justify Hudson's faith in his abilities and reward the trust of his fellow Americans. He's at the threshold of a promising international career, with the chance to be a significant contributor to U.S. soccer's growth and success.
In Balogun, the USMNT gets a young, energetic forward whose career is on an upward trajectory. His addition represents a forward leap in the American team's continuous march towards improvement, reflecting the team's ambition of carving a prominent place in international soccer.
The narrative of Balogun's switch is about more than just one player's choice. It's about the evolving landscape of international soccer, the growing allure of American soccer, and the decisions young players face in our increasingly interconnected world. As Balogun embarks on this new journey with the USMNT, he carries with him the hopes of a nation and the potential to inspire future generations of American soccer players.
It's Called Soccer is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.