BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, July 18, 2012
In recent years the US national teams and youth national teams have added players who have had options to play for other countries.
The almost NCAA-like recruiting of dual national players is nothing unique to the United States. Many countries, including some of the best national teams in the world, have done it.
The United States has lost out on players like Neven Subotic and Giuseppe Rossi but has also gained key players like Fabian Johnson, Jose Torres, and Jermaine Jones.
There are still some battles that remain and we should look at some of the key American dual nationals that are either undecided or are actively playing for another country but are still eligible to switch to the United States.
We will consider both future potential as well as current ability and we will also try to predict the chances for each player being willing to play for the US national team at some point in the future.
Special note, we are not going to include the complicated case of Timothy Chandler since he has only played for the United States and has not publically discussed his international intentions. Recent statements suggest he still wants to be part of the US team.
With that said, here are the top ten dual nationals still able to play for the US who are undecided or playing for another country at the youth level.
10) Derrick Williams - (left back/centerback, Aston Villa) - At just 19 years old, Williams is a solid prospect at Aston Villa who would be a big boost to the US U-20 national team. He has yet to break into Villa's first team although he made the bench for a Premier League game once.
He is eligible to play for the United States but has been regularly playing for Ireland where is currently with the U-19 team. It is unclear if the US has approached him but he seems happy with Ireland for now. Outcome: likely stays with Ireland.
09) Darren Randolph - (goalkeeper, Motherwell) - Randolph has an interesting background. His father was an American professional basketball player in Europe. Eventually he lived in Ireland and that is where Darren was born. This past season he had a solid season with Motherwell who will be playing in Champions League qualifiers this upcoming season.
He is 25 and has played for Ireland's youth national teams. The US has not shown any interest in Randolph yet so it is likely he stays with Ireland.
08) Alejandro Melean - (central defense, Oriente Petrolero) - the Bolivian league is not one of the better leagues in South America but Melean is one of the best central defenders in the league. When Oriente Petrolero qualified for the Copa Libertadores in 2011, Melean did very well against top South American clubs such as Grêmio. Melean was born and raised in the United States where he played NCAA soccer at Holy Cross.
Melean is also wanted by Bolivia and he was called into their national team last year but he did not see any playing time. He is a good player and the US team needs central defenders, but it is unlikely he ever plays for the US team on the grounds that the Bolivian league is below the level for a US callup.
07) Fabian Hurzeler - (midfielder, Bayern Munich) - Hurzeler was born in Houston but grew up in Germany where he consistently played with German youth national teams. He has played with their U-16, U-17, U-19 teams. In 2011 he attended a camp with the US U-20 team but when that team failed to qualify for the U-20 World Cup, he later went onto play for the German U-19 team.
He would still need to file his one-time switch to play for the United States (which he didn't do prior to the 2011 U-20 camp). Germany is a tough team to make and I think eventually he will play for the US U-20 team in the 2013 cycle.
06) Shawn Parker - (winger/forward, Mainz) - Parker is a dual national currently involved with the German U-19 team set up. He is still a nice prospect for both Germany and Mainz but is still a ways from realizing his very high ceiling. US Soccer is aware of him but he has consistently been with Germany at ever age level since he was a U15 player.
As previously noted, Germany is an exceptionally difficult team to make and the odds are that most youth national team players won't be regulars with the senior team. My prediction is that he will eventually play for the United States but only after he is no longer in Germany's plans. That may be years away.
05) Seb Hines - (central defender, Middlesbrough) - Growing up, Hines was a high level prospect for English youth national teams but injuries always set him back. But this past season he was able to return to full health and was an important player for Middlesbrough who want to sign him to a long term extension.
This year will be important for Hines, 24, who will be a key part a Middlesbrough team expected to contend for promotion to the Premier League. He would need to file a one-time switch to play for the United States but he has said he will do that if the US asks. If he continues to play well, the odds are that he plays for the United States.
04) Thomas Delaney - (central midfielder, FC Copenhagen) - Delaney has been a rising star in Danish youth soccer ever since he was a little kid. He is still only 20 and in 2009 he was voted the best Danish U-19 player of the year. He is a regular starter for FC Copenhagen and has played in the Champions League.
Despite being a regular with the Danish U-21 team, he was approached in December by US U-23 head coach Caleb Porter to play for the United States. Being born in Denmark, Delaney declined but he did leave the door open in the future to playing for the US team. It is unlikely that he would play for the United States since he is actively with Denmark but it is not impossible.
03) Miguel Ponce - (left back, Chivas) - Chivas' policy towards only employing players eligible and willing to play for the Mexican national team is well known. Ponce has been a consistent force at left back for the club. He has already played for the Mexican team but could still switch to the US team if he wanted. That, however, is very unlikely. He is likely the future left back for Mexico for years to come.
02) Gotoku Sakai - (left back, Stuttgart) - Sakai was born in New York City but was raised in Japan. He has developed into a very good left back and now plays in the Bundesliga with Stuttgart. Sakai is also a regular with Japan's U-23 team. Japanese citizenship laws are tricky and while it is near impossible to enforce, dual citizenship is generally not permitted (Japanese law, however, cannot affect the USA's ability to issue Sakai an American passport and therefore prevent him from playing for the US team).
Given that he has not spent a lot of time in the USA and is playing for Japan's youth teams, he remains the longest of long shots to play for the US team.
01) Adam Henley - (right back, Blackburn) - Henley was not widely known about before last season but in November he began to break in the club's first team. He made several Premier League appearances including an impressive full 90 effort in a 3-2 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford and a 1-1 draw against Liverpool. In the 2011-12 season, he was the youngest player in the Premier League at just 17 years old.
He can play both left and right back but is far more comfortable on the right. He was voted Blackburn's young player of the year and is an elite prospect. Henley was born in Tennessee but was raised in Wales where he has played for their youth national teams. He said earlier this year he doesn't want to fully commit himself to any one national team. The US knows about him and has spoken with him.
The Olympics would have been a great opportunity to bring Henley into the program but he could still play for the US U-20 team this cycle. Given Henley's unwillingness to commit to Wales and the fact US Soccer is in contact with him, I would say Henley's odds of playing for the US team are an even coin-flip.