Monday, May 29, 2023

Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun opts to play for United States instead of England

The Arsenal forward Folarin Balogun has opted to represent the United States at senior level, with Fifa approving a request from US Soccer to change his national eligibility from England on Tuesday.

Balogun, who has starred in Ligue 1 with Reims on loan this season, has played for England up to under-21 level but now looks set to play for the US national team, who are co-hosting the next men’s World Cup in 2026.

The 21-year-old, who has scored 19 goals in the French top flight this term, was born in Brooklyn but grew up in London. Balogun was also eligible to play international football for Nigeria through his parents.

Balogun revealed the decision was a “no-brainer” after US Soccer had confirmed the switch. “My decision to represent the United States came together with my family,” he told the US Soccer website. “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.

“To represent the United States means a lot, more than people would know,” he added. “I’m very proud and honoured to have this opportunity, and I want to give everything I have to make our team successful.”

Balogun’s decision to represent the USA comes five weeks before England play in the Under-21 European Championship, which is being hosted by Romania and Georgia. Lee Carsley’s side face Germany, Israel and the Czech Republic in Group C.

The move is a coup for US Soccer, who courted Balogun on a visit to Florida in March. He is expected to be part of the USMNT’s squad for the Gold Cup, which it hosts from 24 June to 16 July this summer

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