Arsenal's Gedion Zelalem completes U.S. citizenship process
The recruiting train for the U.S. men's national team shows no signs of slowing down, with Arsenal youth star Gedion Zelalem not only acquiring U.S. citizenship but also declaring his intention to suit up for the U.S. national team, according to U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati.
The Washington Post's Steven Goff first reported that the 17-year-old was joining the ranks of other dual nationals who have pledged their international soccer futures to the U.S. like Julian Green, Aron Johannsson and John Brooks, all of whom suited up for the U.S. at this past summer's World Cup.
Zelalem acquired his citizenship courtesy of the Child Citizenship Act, which allows the minor children of naturalized U.S. citizens to obtain citizenship themselves. Zelalem's father, Zelalem Wolydes, recently became a U.S. citizen. Zelalem represented Germany at the youth level but must still file a one-time switch with FIFA to become eligible to play for the U.S. national team, a step believed to be a rather simple bureaucratic process.
The midfielder was in D.C. on Monday to complete the naturalization process. Gulati then confirmed Tuesday that Zelalem will be filing his switch with FIFA.
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.- Sunil Gulati (@sunilgulati) December 30, 2014
The news brings a close to one of the more intriguing chapters in recent U.S. soccer history. ESPN FC spoke with Zelalem back in July, and the young midfielder revealed at the time that he'd been in contact with U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann "on the phone a few times" about his chances with the USMNT, but that there was "nothing advanced" about their conversations with regard to his international future.
Born in Germany to Ethiopian parents, Zelalem found himself at the center of an international tug-of-war. He lived in Maryland from ages 9 to 15, at which point he joined Arsenal's youth academy in 2013 after being discovered by former U.S. youth international and Arsenal scout Danny Karbassiyoon.
Zelalem's passing and vision have seen comparisons drawn to former Arsenal and current Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas, although it should be noted that there is a long way to go in terms of his development. While he has made two senior team appearances at club level, he has yet to make a league appearance for the Gunners.
The first chance for him to be called up by Klinsmann would be late March as the U.S. prepares for official friendlies against Denmark and Switzerland.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.