Yunus Musah was one of the most impressive performers for the U.S. Men’s Nationl team for its November friendlies, but any enthusiasm generated by his appearances is tempered somewhat by the reality that he still may not wind up representing the USMNT long-term.
Musah’s November appearances do not cap-tie him to the United States, and the New York-born midfielder remains eligible to play for multiple countries, including England, which he has represented at youth levels.
The uncertainty surrounding Musah’s international future didn’t stop USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter from giving him a second straight start in the U.S. midfield, and much as he did against Wales, Musah performed well against Panama. The 17-year-old showed the range, touch and strength that has him looking like a top starting option if he decides to play for the United States.
“I was really happy with Yunus’ performance,” Berhalter said after Monday’s win. “I’m really happy with him in camp. The guys really took to him well.”
The USMNT will be hoping Musah’s experience with the team is enough to convince him to choose to play for the United States much the same way Sergino Dest chose the USA over the Netherlands due in large part to his experiences playing for multiple youth national teams.
“All I’ve ever said about players in this category is that all we want to do is create an environment for them that they want to be in, that they trust is a good environment for the development,” Berhalter said. “It seemed like that was the case for Yunus, it seems like he sees us as a as a pathway to continue to develop and play with a good young group.
“In the end, it’s going to be him and his family that decide. We’re here for him, to answer any questions, but it’s going to be him that decides.”
The England national team is another option for Musah, and while a call-up to England’s senior team has yet to come, England manager Gareth Southgate recently chimed in on Musah, stating that the Valencia midfielder is very much on England’s radar.
Musah’s star is on the rise as he has enjoyed a breakout season with Valencia, becoming a regular starter for the La Liga club. If he continues to perform well in Spain, then England could be tempted to step up its pursuit in order to lose any more ground on the United States.
Working in the USMNT’s favor is the presence of a talented generation in Musah’s age range, led by the likes of Gio Reyna, Dest, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams. It was clear that the USMNT group embraced Musah as one of their own, and while there is sure to be at least some recruiting from some circles, players know that the decision is one he will have to make on his own.
“For me, this is a really personal decision for him, so for me and the rest of the guys, we can’t say much,” Reyna said. “Of course we’d love to have him here and obviously he’d be a big part of our team moving forward. But like I said, it’s wherever he feels closest to the heart, and hopefully it’s here.
“We’ve had a good time with him, and he’s a great guy. We’ve gotten to know him. We’ll just have to see what happens next.”
The next time Musah could join the USMNT is in March, when the next FIFA window takes place, and while it remains to be seen whether or not England will step up its pursuit, the U.S. program has taken a positive first step towards trying to convince Musah to play for the country of his birth.
If the USMNT succeeds, we could be seeing Musah in the U.S. midfield for the next decade.