Kenny Saief seals national team switch from Israel to United States
Midfielder Kenny Saief will be eligible to play for the United States after FIFA approved his switch of national team allegiance from Israel, U.S. Soccer confirmed on Thursday.
The move clears Saief, who plays his club soccer for Gent in Belgium, to appear for the U.S. at this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, for which he was named to the preliminary 40-man squad.
Saief needed to complete the one-time switch because he had previously played for Israel's under-19 and under-21 teams.
Israel had been expected to call him up for a World Cup qualifier against Spain in March before he suffered an abdominal injury, and the 23-year-old is now cap-tied to the United States instead.
Saief was born in Panama City, Florida, but grew up in Israel. He told ESPN FC in March that he always wanted to represent the U.S.
"I hope I will get a call from the United States; let's be honest," he said then. "The U.S. is a much bigger and better national team than the Israeli national team. They qualify for almost every World Cup, and it's a dream of every football player to play in the World Cup. So that is where I want to play. I'm just waiting."
Saief joined Gent in 2014 and started for the Belgian team in the Champions League last year as it made a run to the round of 16. He has been a key part of its success this season, both in the domestic league and the Europa League. He played 90 minutes in both legs of Gent's round-of-32 victory over Tottenham.
The Americans' final Gold Cup squad will be announced on Sunday.