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U.S. Soccer seeking FIFA exemption to clear Gedion Zelalem for USMNT duty

GedionZelalemArsenal1-MonacoEmiratesCup (Getty)


After stating his intent to become a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team, Gedion Zelalem appeared to be on the path to represent the country sooner rather than later. Turns out, it isn’t quite that easy.

ESPN reported Tuesday that U.S. Soccer is currently seeking an exemption from FIFA with regards to Zelalem, who is currently barred from suiting up for the USMNT. Under current rules, the Arsenal prodigy would have to live in the U.S. for five years past his 18th birthday, which was earlier this month, in order to be declared eligible.

Firmly entrenched in Arsenal’s London setup, it’s highly unlikely that Zelalem would move stateside anytime soon, but U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is expecting FIFA to grant an exemption.

“We’re going through the FIFA process and hope to have Gedion eligible by March or April,” Gulati told “We don’t expect any issues.”

Zelalem’s current ineligibility stems from a rule put in place by FIFA to prevent nations from nationalizing foreigners with the sole purpose of improving the country’s national team. However, the governing body does grant exemptions to those who can prove that their nationalization did not violate the spirit of the rule.

The Arsenal youth star is believed to be one of those potential exemptions due to his previous residency in the U.S. prior to his discovery and subsequent signing by Arsenal.

What do you make of the latest reports? Concerned about Zelalem’s citizenship status?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. It’s a stupid premise that the US State Department would nationalize a person to improve our soccer team. The fact that this is US citizenship should make this decision automatic.

    • They can’t. Naturalization is only based on federal law and is adjudicated by USCIS — the State Department has nothing do with it. There are NO exceptions whatsoever.

      • I think Waterlewd’s point is that there is a strict process for US citizenship, so if he can get US citizenship, he should be eligible. If the US made exceptions to get the best athletes, then maybe Fagundez might have been playing with us

  2. Seems like there is nothing to be worried about here. He will probably get the approval and besides the Panama game I don’t think he will miss any camps for the senior team or U-20’s

    • Well that depends, my friend…

      You see there is a certain election coming up and depending on how…well, certain people vote…this could…or could not be a…how do you say in your English – ah yes, a problem.



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