Tuesday, December 30, 2014 11:25 pm
German-born Gedion Zelalem, a 17-year-old standout midfielder for Arsenal, has become a US citizen and plans to play internationally for the Americans, US Soccer president Sunil Gulati confirmed Tuesday.
“Gedion Zelalem is now a U.S. citizen. At his request we have started the FIFA process which would allow him to be eligible for the USMNT,” Gulati said in a Twitter posting.
Zelalem, whose parents are Ethiopian, played high school football in suburban Washington before being tapped by an Arsenal scout in 2013. He has spent much of his time with the English Premier League side’s youth teams.
But Zelalem made his debut for the main squad as a substitute last January in a 4-0 FA Cup victory over visiting Coventry City and appeared again for the Gunners in a 4-1 Champions League victory over Galatasaray three weeks ago.
While Zelalem had played for several German national youth squads, none was in a FIFA event, according to the Washington Post, who first reported the star prospect being seen near the White House on Monday at a US passport office.
Zelalem, the first Arsenal player born after Arsene Wenger took charge of the Gunners, could boost US prospects at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics as well as the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Zelalem becomes the latest in a series of dual citizenship players to join the US squad since former German international Jurgen Klinsmann took charge of the program.
That list includes 19-year-old Julian Green, a Bayern Munich striker who could have declared for Germany but made his US debut last June in the World Cup and scored on his first touch of the ball.