The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) might be on the verge of acquiring yet another high profile European in the near future. According to Steven Goff of The Washington Post, Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem is on the verge of becoming an American citizen. And by doing so, he’ll be eligible to represent the red, white and blue on the pitch.
The 17-year-old midfielder is German-born but lived in the D.C. suburbs for six years before joining the Gunners last year. Zelalem has even trained with the U.S. under-15 team twice, but because he’s not a U.S. citizen, he did not meet the eligibility requirements to play in official matches.
Zelalem is actually in the German national team system. However in March, he withdrew from the under-17 team ahead of the European Championship qualifiers. By withdrawing from the competition, Zelalem held on to his hope of playing for the USMNT at some point in his career. FIFA does not allow players to switch affiliations unless the player is a citizen of both countries at the time they make their international debut.
His situation is a lot more complicated than Julian Green’s, who made his decision in April to play for the USMNT.
Unlike Green, Zelalem is not a U.S. citizen. His parents are not citizens and so the only way Zelalem can even entertain the idea of playing for the United States is if his parents become U.S. citizens, because then Zelalem is eligible for a U.S. passport through the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which “serves to facilitate the acquisition of U.S. citizenship of the foreign-born children of U.S. citizens – both biological and adopted – who did not acquire citizenship at birth.”
It helps that he is under age 18 because he will automatically become a citizen when his father becomes a citizen, which apparently has happened and this is the reason he and his father are in D.C.
Zelalem is young, only 17 years old, and he has a lot of time to grow, but if he was to choose the United States program over Germany, this would be the second high-profile international to pick the United States of America, the first being Julian Green.
The youngster made his first-team debut for Arsenal in a January FA Cup match against Coventry City and has been an unused substitute in three EPL matches. This would be yet another project for Jurgen Klinsmann, as he would most likely use Zelalem in the 2016 Olympics or the 2018 World Cup in Russia. If he decides to play for the United States that is.