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Gedion Zelalem to play for U.S. Under-20 World Cup team

GedionZelalemArsenal1-MonacoEmiratesCup (Getty)


When the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National team roster came out last week, 20 of a possible 21 names were listed amongst the squad. That 21st name has now officially been added.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that Gedion Zelalem has been ruled eligible by FIFA and has officially been added as the 21st member of the squad for the upcoming U-20 World Cup.

Zelalem had originally applied for clearance to represent the U.S. earlier this year, but required a response from FIFA before officially being eligible. That response came Wednesday, allowing the Arsenal midfielder to be added to the squad before the official deadline of May 15.

The 18-year-old playmaker has made two career appearances for the Arsenal senior team, appearing in one FA Cup match and one Champions League group stage contest.

It wasn’t all good news for the U.S. Under-20 World Cup roster. Goalkeeper Ethan Horvath was not released by Norwegian side Molde, forcing Tab Ramos to call in University of San Diego’s Thomas Olsen as his third goalkeeper.

The U.S. U-20s will depart for Australia on May 14 ahead of the U-20 World Cup, which will be contested in New Zealand May 30-June 20.

Take a closer look at the now complete roster below:

GOALKEEPERS: Jeff Caldwell (University of Virginia; Todd, N.C.), Thomas Olsen (University of San Diego; Las Vegas, Nev.), Zack Steffen (Freiburg; Downingtown, Pa.)

DEFENDERS: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur; Westcliff on Sea, England), Matthew Miazga (New York Red Bulls; Clifton, N.J.), Shaquell Moore (Valencia Huracan; Powder Springs, Ga.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Desevio Payne (FC Groningen; Greenwood, S.C.), John Requejo (Club Tijuana; Carpinteria, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; Plano, Texas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana; Chula Vista, Calif.), Russell Canouse (Hoffenheim; Lancaster, Pa.), Marco Delgado (Toronto FC; Glendora, Calif.), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham; Dallas, Texas), Joel Soñora (Boca Juniors; Buenos Aires, Argentina), Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal; Montgomery County, Md.)

FORWARDS: Jordan Allen (Real Salt Lake; Rochester, N.Y.), Bradford Jamieson IV (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht; Beaverton, Ore.), Maki Tall (Red Star; Washington, D.C.), Tommy Thompson (San Jose Earthquakes; Loomis, Calif.)

What do you expect from Zelalem at the upcoming World Cup? Think this U.S. team can make deep tournament run?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I’ll save everyone time:
    1) This is the best news in US soccer history.
    2) This is terrible for the development of US soccer.
    3) Freddy Adu comment.
    4) Another fake US player. Meh.
    5) His ties to the US are sufficient that its still patriotic to root for him.
    6) Another Julian Green!!!
    7) Another Julian Green???
    8) He is the partner for Michael Bradley that we’ve been looking for.
    9) He is the replacement for Michael Bradley that we’ve been looking for.
    10) Arsenal will now dump him.
    11) As long as he is playing somewhere.
    12) As long as he is not playing in MLS.
    13) Cosmos should sign him and Ronaldinho and buy out the Red Bulls.
    14) He is great based on the friendly I saw him play once.
    15) Let’s wait a few years.
    Miss anything?

  2. Whats up with this Canouse kid, have not heard much about him. Can someone shed some light for me in regards to his path to his path to Hoffenhiem?

    • American kid whose dad got a job in Germany. I would bet his Dad works for SAP. Hes not really a germerican like we normally see.

    • 19 year old who is a starter on their reserve team. Real quality defensively, and can circulate the ball well. I think his biggest issue is his lack of top-tier athleticism, however, there have been plenty of really good DMid’s that weren’t the best athletically.

  3. I’m happy for the kid that FIFA finally approved his paperwork to play for the USA. IMO this is the perfect level for him to start his USNT career. A strong performance by this group of young players will go a long ways towards showing who is ready to step up towards making the U-23’s.
    The top performers from this group & the U-23’s will be fast tracked into the Sr. Squad for the 2017 Gold Cup & Confed. Cup.
    Who are the likely candidates…..CCV, Moore, Payne, Hyndman, Zelalem, Canouse, & Rubin,

  4. plenty of talent… what are the expectations for this team? how will be measure success?

    when do we start blaming Tab?

  5. Im not sure if he can break through onto Arsenal’s midfield rotation next season s I hope he gets loaned or transferred. He will be 19 soon enough and probably good enough to be playing at Championship level. I just dont want him to play reserve ball for another 12-18 months

  6. Impressive roster on paper, easily the most impressive group of U20’s we’ve had in awhile.

    Will they do anything?

    • Well, one never knows, but it doesn’t seem like a strong group. I mean, even though they are the home team, how good can New Zealand be and Myanamar? You figure only Ukraine will be tough.

      • Don’t overlook the New Zealand squad. Most of the players for NZ have been playing as a team in the NZ league. That will provide a strong understanding among the players and coaches. Throw in a handful of guys playing abroad and they could have a very good squad indeed.

      • There is absolutely no excuse for losing to NZ. This is a country of 4 million people where soccer is at best the #3 sport (if you count rugby league and rugby union as two different sports then it’s fourth behind cricket as well).

      • It means the US shouldn’t lose to them. This is a country with a population of around 1% of the US and soccer is a minor sport there. The US should always have a better team at any level.

  7. We finally get to see this kid play! Fingers crossed that he’s actually good/talented and becomes a great player in the future.

    • Oh, he’s good, and he’s talented. Saw him on the field for the Red Bulls-Arsenal friendly and he did not look out of place among Arsenal’s players. Smoother than smooth, athletic, great passer, great technician. Has some height and length, runs really well. Didn’t jump off the field at you or anything but it’s obvious why Arsenal was so high on him. Big pickup for our U20’s and would expect him to be a virtual lock for the U23’s in the Olympics as well.

      Beyond that, he needs to find some playing time, somewhere, and develop from a prospect with obvious potential to a player and playmaker. No clue what his actual ceiling is – be it Arsenal’s first team or an MLS roster or somewhere in between – but barring a cocaine habit or major injury he’s going to be a quality professional…dunno if that makes him senior-team USMNT level – he’s obviously not there yet – but if this were American football parlance he’d be a 5-star recruit. If you follow college football, about half of those 5-star guys turn out and ended up drafted, half of them drop off the map and never really emerge. Figure the odds are about the same here. (I’d give a similar assessment to Julian Green. 5-stars, 50-50 he ever emerges.)

      Still curious to see which way it goes, with Zelalem. Hopeful he really emerges. Our midfield needs some technical polish, badly.

      • My guess is that if Wenger doesn’t think Zelalem will make the bench consistently next year he will loan him out. He loaned out Joel Campbell at a similar age to the Greek League and you may remember that Campbell, while not an Arsenal regular, had a pretty good
        World Cup.

      • Joel Campbell isn’t Arsenal material.

        Zelalem’s biggest problem keeping him out of the first team is the talent that’s already there, and his physical stature. Right now he’s behind Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshire, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Rosicky who all have more experience in the EPL and are simply better players.

        He’s also a bit slight in stature to hold up in the EPL. One hopes he’ll fill out over time, and that won’t be an issue.

        As a Gooner with too much time on my hands, I’ve sought out and watched videos of his play in preseason tours with the first team and what I saw was very intriguing. LET”S BE CLEAR, I don’t think he’s Pirlo, but I saw some similarities in how they approach the game. Fairly simple, great vision and can play a wonderfully weighted pass that I don’t think some would see. Again he’s not Pirlo (Pirlo is a god), but he plays in a similar way..

      • I’ll take “didn’t jump off the field at you or anything” with Arsenal’s senior team any day, over he jumped out at you for all the wrong reasons.

    • Better than Julian? Green stinks but does it matter to JK? He plays in Europe so he goes to the head of the line

      • Landon, Landon, Landon…. he scored in the tournament. He’s a pup. check your judgement until he’s at least 23.

      • If the USMNT faithful need to wait 4 years to find out whether or not Green is an international quality player (“check your judgement until he is at least 23”), then why is he training with the senior team?

        Green’s been gifted auto call ups for a year (part of the deal I assume) while other worthwhile players are not being called in at all.

        I do agree that given his current form, Green seems to be several years away from earning rather than being gifted his spot on the senior team.

    • This kid is the product of American system. He moved here when he 8 and played for select teams. Then he got noticed by a EPL scout at an elite team tournament at 16. He was developed here. Take your whining elsewhere.

    • Look, everyone knows my views on JK’s recruitment of passport Americans but Zelalem spent a lot of his childhood here and learned the game here. He should absolutely play for the US.

      It’s also important to not hype this kid up like we do every young guy. He’s barely played any first-team football anywhere. Sure it’s hard to break into the Arsenal team (though hardly impossible) but he hasn’t even gone out on loan anywhere yet. Hopefully next season. We’ve seen from Julian Green that just being in the youth system of a big club doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to become a star immediately.

    • Possible but I’d think about a 4-3-3

      Allen- Jamieson- Rubin
      Zelalem- Canouse- Hyndman
      Moore- EPB-Miazga- CCV

      • I say:


      • Agree with this lineup, although I could see Thompson and Jamieson getting shuffled depending on form and matchup.

        That said, Ramos has said he’s going to use a 442 diamond similar to what the senior team has been using lately. So it may play out different.

      • It’s pretty clear that ALL USNTs will be playing in the 4-4-2 diamond shape for the foreseeable future.

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