A report out of Chile earlier this week suggested that U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team striker Sebastian Soto was all set to play for the Chilean national team, but that report has since been refuted amid a new report from Chile claiming that Soto has turned down a Chile call-up for its upcoming October World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Colombia.
According to Chilean outlet El Mercurio, Soto has turned down a Chile call-up after initially having accepted it. The report suggests that Soto’s advisors convinced him to pass up on the offer after initially accepting a call-up, though the report doesn’t rule out the possibility of Soto accepting a future Chile call-up.
Just how realistic it would have been for Soto to actually have played for Chile in October is in some doubt due to the fact Soto reportedly doesn’t have a Chilean passport yet, and a source tells SBI that Soto had not filed a Change of Association with U.S. Soccer, a necessary step to clear the way for him to play for Chile.
The 20-year-old has represented the U.S. Youth National Teams in the past, most notably scoring four goals for the Under-20 team at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Soto has since scored one goal in two appearances for the U-23 side but had yet to receive a call-up from the USMNT.
A source has confirmed to SBI that Berhalter has had communication with Soto, who is considered one of the better forward prospects in the USMNT pipeline, though his current club situation will need to improve after seeing his career stalled at Hannover 96 prior to his recent summer transfer to Norwich City.
Soto’s inability to secure a work permit to clear the way to play for Norwich City may be at the heart of Soto considering accepting a Chile call-up. In theory, if Soto could break into the Chilean squad and play in World Cup qualifiers it could potentially expedite the securing of a U.K. work permit, but that would mean Soto committing his international future to Chile, the country of his father’s birth, rather than the United States, where he was born and the country he has represented at the youth national team level.
FIFA recently passed changes to its rules regarding dual national players and their ability to avoid being cap-tied, but if Soto filed a Change of Association to play for Chile, he would become ineligible to play for the United States as soon as he played for Chile. If Soto filed a Change of Association to play for Chile, but failed to make an appearance, he could still switch back to the United States under FIFA’s new rules, but only after a four-year wait.
Reports out of Chile suggest that Rueda has been pushing hard to convince Soto to play for Chile, seeing him as a potential answer at striker for a national team light on established young forwards, but given how little playing time Soto has had on the club level in the past year, there’s no guarantee he would be able to break through and become a regular contributor for Chile.
Switching national team allegiances would also been parting with the group of players he came up with on the U.S. Under-20 World Cup team, a stacked group that included Sergino Dest, Tim Weah, Chris Richards, Konrad De La Fuente, Ulysses Llanez, Alex Mendez and Richard Ledezma. Soto has spoken in the past about the potential of that generation, and being a part of that group.
Whether Soto is serious about considering a national team switch remains to be seen, but there is no denying he is a talented prospect who could develop into a difference-maker on the international level.