BRENT LATHAM - Friday, June 5, 2009
A new rule change that is likely to have global implications as soon as next year's World Cup has been passed by the FIFA Congress in the Bahamas, FIFA has confirmed to YA.

The rule, proposed by the Algerian Football Federation and accepted by a majority vote of the Congress, eliminates the age limit at which a player can opt to request a change of federations after having participated in the youth teams of one country.

Players who have not played an 'A' international match for their country, meaning a match in a competitive international tournament such as the Gold Cup, World Cup, or World Cup qualifying - and excluding friendlies - would apparently now be eligible to switch to any federation of a country for which they held citizenship at the time they played for a youth team of the original country.

"It's not quite as simple as that," FIFA's Nicolas Maingot told YA, "because Articles 15, 16, 17 and 18, in relation to the eligibility of players still apply."

Those articles deal with the conditions under which a player could previously switch nationalities, including the concurrent nationality requirement, and the 'A' international match limitation.

Maingot says that the regulation is expected to take effect sixty days from the vote, which took place June 3.

"Any new regulations take effect sixty days after the Congress," he explained.

The FIFA spokesman said that there was no way to predict how long decisions on individual cases might take, though in the past cases have been decided in a matter of weeks, or in some cases a month or two.

"We would anticipate some communication going out to the member associations in the period in between to clarify this."

Because the rule change needs to be clarified before taking effect, any guess at how it may affect individual players or associations still involves speculation. Nevertheless, the rule change could potentially impact the United States.

San Jose midfielder Arturo Alvarez, who last played with the US Under-23 team in Olympic qualifying, attempted earlier this year to switch his allegiance to El Salvador. His bid was unsuccessful, but under the new statute he would appear to now have grounds for a change.

At least two prominent Americans playing abroad would also now appear to be eligible for a switch to the USSF, should they be interested.

FC Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones, the son of an American father and German mother, has appeared in friendlies for the German national team but has never earned a cap in an 'A' international match.

Club America left back Edgar Castillo, who has suited up for Mexico on various occasions, may also now again be eligible for the US team. Castillo, a New Mexico native who has sat on the bench for qualifiers for Mexico but never appeared in a full 'A' match, was left off new coach Javier Aguirre's squad for this week's Hexagonal games.

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