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Source: Efrain Alvarez has not made national team commitment despite looming call-up for Mexico friendlies


When a TUDN Mexico report surfaced on Saturday stating that Efrain Alvarez would be called up for the Mexican national team’s upcoming March friendlies, the initial thought among some Mexican media was that the call-up meant Alvarez had made a final decision on which national team he would represent. The assumption was made that Alvarez was going to commit to playing for El Tri rather than the United States, which he had spent time with at a recent December national team camp.

That presumptuous interpretation ignored the actual initial TUDN report, which itself stated that Alvarez’s international feature was still undecided. A source with knowledge of Alvarez’s plans tells SBI that the LA Galaxy midfielder has not made a final decision on his international future, even though he is ready to take part in his first Mexican national team camp.

To be clear, Alvarez is free to accept a call-up for Mexican friendlies without risking being cap-tied to Mexico. Right now, due to his appearances for Mexico at the Under-17 World Cup, he is tentatively tied to Mexico, but could still file a one-time Change of Association with FIFA in order to play for the United States, his country of birth, even if he appears in Mexico’s upcoming matches against Wales and Costa Rica.

The difference between Alvarez’s situation and that of Monterrey and former U.S. Under-20 national team midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez’s national team situation is that since Gonzalez played for the United States in official youth competitions, he was required to file a Change of Association to play for Mexico, which he did in a friendly in 2018.  The one-time switch tied Gonzalez to Mexico permanently, and he has not featured with the senior team again since then.

For the 18-year-old Alvarez, the only thing that could tie him to Mexico at the moment is playing in an official competition, like the Nations League, Gold Cup or World Cup qualifiers, all three of which Mexico will compete in later in 2021. Mexico’s first chance to cap-tie Alvarez would come in June’s Nations League, but it remains to be seen whether Tata Martino would be willing to bring in the teenager for an official competition.

As things stand, Alvarez isn’t ready to commit one way or the other, but it is safe to project Mexico as having the advantage at the moment, and the experience of taking part in his first Mexican national team camp and friendlies could help lead him to make a final decision ahead of an important year for both Mexico and the United States.

It is also an important year for Alvarez, as he looks to break through and become a regular starter for the LA Galaxy, which he has yet to do despite showing exciting flashes of skill in recent years. Alvarez has made 30 appearances over the past two seasons with the Galaxy, but just 10 starts.

Despite his limited minutes with the Galaxy first team, Alvarez has drawn praise from the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who once called him the most talented teenager in MLS.

The United States is still actively recruiting Alvarez, though USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and U-23 coach Jason Kreis have made it clear they are being patient. Given the USMNT’s recent landing of former England youth international Yunus Musah, the Americans are already riding high on the dual national front and won’t feel any need to pressure Alvarez.

Something else for Alvarez to consider is the fate of fellow Mexican-American Jonathan Gonzalez, who committed to play for Mexico, only to fall by the wayside as his club career at Monterrey faltered. Gonzalez has not earned a national team appearance since his debut following his filing of a one-time switch, and more recently Gonzalez was left off Mexico’s Olympic qualifying squad.

It is something for Alvarez to think about, and if the Americans can convince Alvarez to represent the United States, it would be another example of the growing momentum around a USMNT program with an exciting generation of young talent working its way up the pipeline.


  1. IMO Alvarez would be a nice get…especially because I like taking options away from Mexico. However I don’t see him as a player who’d move the USMNT needle all that much. We have more depth/prospects at the positions Alvarez would fill on the USMNT (Reyna, Musah, Aaronson, Ledezma, Polmykal, Clark, Mendez, Uli, Weah, etc…).
    I rated Johnathan Gonzalez much more, and am still disappointed that we lost him as we have less depth at the CDM position. Would be nice to have Gonzalez as a back-up to Adams right now which would give more time to Cardoso and/or Otasowie.

      • Completely agree….that’s why he’d be a nice get and why I’m still disappointed that we lost Gonzalez. Point I was attempting to make is that while Alvarez would potentially help add depth (4th or 5th at his positions), Gonzalez would be # 2 right now…
        I’m all for building depth and having a competitive battle for positions so we have the best options/team when it matters most. I’d just prefer we were getting more depth at positions of immediate need (LB, CDM, CB, GK).
        Alvarez is predominantly a wide attacker or attacking CM. Positions where we have the most current depth and future prospects.
        CDM, LB, CB, & GK are thin for current depth…so I wish there was more word of getting additional options at these positions.

  2. English tabloids also reported they were going to grab Musah…..see what happens.

    Anyone that knows, kid worth the tug of war?

    • I’m a Galaxy fan so I have seen him quite a bit. He seems to play well for his age, but I don’t see him really standing out. He could become very good, but I wouldn’t call him a can’t miss international. Given the US depth now I would suspect that at most he could be a helpful reserve for the national team.

    • I was high on him in 2018 when he, Uly Llanez, and Alex Mendez were playing with LAG II. Then Mendez and Uly left for Europe. They were really fun to watch in USL a couple 8 or 9 goal total matches, no defense whatsoever. He didn’t seem to make a lot of progress under Schelotto. Great left foot, lacking in athleticism. Not sure how he’d really fit in either Berhalter or Tata’s systems right now.

  3. optimistic stuff. the Mexican reports may be slightly off. the door may be legally ajar ever so slightly. but he has a row of MEX on his resume going down to YNT, and to play even a minute of a friendly requires him to flip and file a switch. he has already camped with us which is all he can do without the switch. GB tried to offer him U23 and his response seems to have been to accept MEX’s senior call as an ante.

    if we really wanted him we’d mirror the senior offer. maybe there is a window in there where “Mexico will call” but he hasn’t committed to accept. if not, there is little reason for real hope because what more can we do or offer? we did what we could and he went back to them. GB and Kreis didn’t do a real hard sell by playing down what he might be to us. they instead rattled off “who knows because club form” caveats. real great way to snag a player on the fence, that. if you have a brain and think he has any potential you would hype the player up, secure the permanent switch, and only then cold blooded analyze whether he’s senior team-ready.

    also bears noting that this could be dest in reverse where you use the other team to leverage the team you actually want to play for. so we could simply be the other team you use to bid up your participation for mexico, see if they promise more playing time or something.

    • Do we know he wasn’t invited to the US camp? We know he was invited to both Mexico and US U23s. There is a report he’s been invited to Mexico NT camp. You’re assuming he wasn’t based solely on it doesn’t fit your narrative. If we don’t end up getting him back it will be because of whatever happened 4 or 5 years ago when he was last in a US camp.

      • we know he was in camp in Dec but hadn’t switched and couldn’t play. that should have hinted that some sort of further gambit might have secured his services. our followup was a U23 provo roster listing for march which would have excluded senior play in europe. mexico matched that and then apparently upgraded to a senior offer like i had suggested. it is ambiguous where he has accepted or just received an offer. the sources suggest he is not 100% committed. read between the lines, we might get this done for a senior call. otherwise, if kreis and GB are going to talk him down (“doesn’t play much in club so we don’t know what to think” — favoring club form over straight talent assessment) then he will maintain a string of MEX on his resume which is all but game over. he will remain technically legally “in play” until he gets the cap that finishes it this summer or fall. but having had him in camp already, and needing a one time switch for any further development, the well duh question is “what gets me that switch.” obviously not U23, he said no and sounds like pivoted back to mexico. has to be a senior call. if anything. if we haven’t already blown it and he’s using us like dest used holland to ante up our interest. it may be how kreis and GB see the player but public skepticism isn’t a great sales pitch to a player with a decision to make. you should be buttering him up. you then pivot back to skeptical with the one time switch done when he finally suits up and we see how he compares. personally i am of the “cap first and find out later” school.

    • The call up in Dec was a senior call up…the euro team wasn’t available…so not sure why you are saying they only dangled the u23….he had the call up….each recruiting event has its own particulars so not sure the same approach can be just copied…he started out in the US youth system and something happened that he went to mexico so in order to get him back, the approach needs to be different…

      • they had him in senior camp in December, yes. but both sides knew it was uncommitted and no switch was filed. however from his perspective the followup in March would be U23 provo list instead of another senior call. lack of U23 acceptance or a one time senior switch suggests he found that followup insufficient. from some perspectives that might be a tad aggressive however he maybe thinks he has some leverage. the US’ response appears to be merit-based we think you aren’t ready yet. but mexico is apparently willing to at least pretend he is. he already has a row of MEX so we needed aggression. if he’s back looking at MEX when a switch is required for us then we’re generally speeaking on the back foot. i think if you throw out a lot of the fall as U23 trials posing as senior games then GB looks different and more stingy with senior caps — 2019. GB to me favors stats over eyeballing talent. this puts Efrain back foot. GB favors established over insurgent. ditto. i am not sure outside of some Dest (that he actually misevaluated) that he wants to be aggressive for kids in the same way Klinsi might have been. his timing on Reyna and Sargent suggests he will instead wait on career progression. the way to get a player like Efrain is aggression after optimistic talent. i think GB is too much of a “form” and “stats” guy to make those kinds of jumps. i think this winter looked like he might be but wait until this year and see who he calls when money is on the table. i think you will see Zardes and Ream and the like back around, and some of the kids are tracking to U23 this year (and most of this cycle). so i am not sure GB is wired to take the necessary “Morris” or “Green” type “risk” this involves.

  4. Very timely info, I wasn’t sure what the current status for Alvarez was with the variety of recent reports coming out.

    My best guess before reading this was that he had pretty much made up his mind. Glad to see he is still considering his path forward, as I believe he will eventually pan out to be a top player.

    We’ll see. Thanks again, Ives…

    • tThe kid is limited athletically. His work rate and stamina isn’t great. Sweet left foot and sone great vision. Just can’t see him succeeding at a top 5 league Euro team….and that is what the US bar is becoming. I would be happy to have him, but the US/Mex angle feeds a lot of life into this, and I would take a Musah or Aaronson over him any day of the week.
      They play the modern game. BA needs to gro a bit physically but his passing and vision is truly top level. he will get there. The old technically great, magic foot stuff only takes u so far today. No biggie.

      • the US is becoming a little tactically naive and one-note. every player doesn’t have to be a two-way athlete. i can think of plenty of situations when a technical mid who can hit a shot is a tactically useful sub, and where any lack of speed or defense is balanced by, say, you’re already down 1-0 and need some precision deliveries. same thing height, speed, shooting ability, marking prowess. sometimes you have a mismatch to exploit or need a change of pace. or are chasing a match and more of the same is going nowhere.

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