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Former USMNT prospect Ayo Akinola to play for Canadian national team after filing one-time switch


Ayo Akinola had the option of continuing his international career as a prospect in the ever-crowding striker pool with the U.S. Men’s National Team, or joining the blossoming Canadian national team program and representing the country where he spent his formative years.

In the end, Akinola chose Canada, with the Canadian Soccer Federation announcing on Wednesday that Akinola has successfully filed a Change of Association with FIFA and will be part of Canada’s squad for the upcoming Concacaf Gold Cup.

The former U.S. Under-17 and Under-20 striker made a combined 61 appearances for U.S. youth national teams since being identified as an international prospect, but the Detroit-born and Ontario-raised striker began garnering increased interest from the Canadian national team after his breakthrough performance for Toronto FC in the MLS is Back Tournament.

Akinola played on the U.S. Under-17 national team at the 2017 Under-17 World Cup, where he was teammates with current USMNT regulars Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest. He later played a key role in helping the United States win the 2018 Concacaf Under-20 Championship, and was expected to be a part of the 2019 U.S. Under-20 World Cup team before an injury ruled him out of contention.

Akinola joins a Canadian national team that is arguably the strongest Canada has ever had, featuring stars Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David. Canada qualified for the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1997.

The 21-year-old striker was on the USMNT radar, and earned a call-up to a camp with the United States last December, starting and scoring a goal in a 6-0 friendly win against El Salvador. Ultimately, Akinola still decided to play for Canada and could now wind up facing the United States in World Cup qualifying in September.

Akinola’s decision to play for Canada means one less name on the list of striker prospects for Gregg Berhalter and the USMNT, but that list still boasts a healthy number of promising prospects, including Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok, Matthew Hoppe, Nicholas Gioacchini, Sebastian Soto, Ricardo Pepi and Haji Wright to name a few.


  1. Good for Akinola, he chose the country he spent most of his life in and one whose national team is one he will undoubtedly be part of. It is unlikely he would feature on a US WC squad any time soon if he had stuck with the USA. He is good enough to make the Canadian squad and they do have a shot at the 2022 WC.

  2. I think most of us saw this coming. The 3rd automatic birth is going to be a coin toss. Costa Rica is struggling, but Honduras showed during the Nations League that they will put up a good fight and Jamaica is heavily recruiting players. Canada is on the rise, but still needs depth especially considering WCQ’s 3 games per window.
    Canada will get an automatic birth in 2026 as a co-host….but as we saw with the US it’s very important to get WC experience ahead of hosting. The USMNT would not have performed as well in 94 without the experience the players gained in the 90 WC.
    Akinola may not be a starter with Canada but he’ll be able to make their rotation. While if he were to stay with the US he’s not even ensured to be part of the rotation. Besides the 7 names mentioned in the article there are still others who were not mentioned….Zardes & Jozy as established veterans and Balogun & Sanogo as duel national prospects who might represent the US.

  3. It’s a smart move on his part. He’s a decent prospect and an above-average MLS player. He would be very down on the depth chart with the full USMNT. He has a much better chance to be an impact player with Canada. Canada also has a good chance of qualifying for the next World Cup and they cohost 2026.

  4. Cyle Larin or Cavallini will have something to say. Ayo isn’t going to have it easy just because it’s Canada. He’s played winger but Canada has talent there too. There’s been plenty of players who switch and aren’t assured of playing. See Kenny Saief, Johnathon Gonzalez. Good luck to him except when he plays the Stars & Stripes! CU @ the GC!

  5. I think this is the right move for Akinola. He didn’t see a future with the US, Canada has a rising program, and he fills a void in their lineup. The depth of the US is now at a point where losing someone like Akinola is much less impactful than past defections like Giuseppe Rossi.

    • flaw in your thesis is he was a USYNT player — not a Canadian — and yet was already drifting that way before pefok or dike, coming off a US cap. i don’t see how this plus efrain are not a critique of his passive, “shop us and shop them” approach. and while over time we may cope with this fine, due to sheer depth of the pool, 9 is hardly yet a resolved position. who should start? who should make the team? exactly.

      • The flaw in your thinking though is he is Canadian has lived 20 of his 21 years in Canada, and plays on a Canadian club team. When he joined USYNT the thought of ever playing in a YWC let alone a full WC with Canada was next to nothing. Now that situation has changed. Contrary to what you think these guys aren’t property of US Soccer, Gregg nor anyone else can force him to play for the US. Just because you don’t see a players name on a released roster doesn’t mean Gregg or Brian didn’t ask them to be. Good luck to Ayo.

    • Cav is old and may not be up to it in 2026. As stated he fills a void for them. AA ain’t no Rossi and isn’t even close.
      He will have to do a lot to show he isn’t an MLS lifer. A lot of flaws in his game he isn’t going to suddenly improve. A decent prospect but not a high ceiling.
      Pepi is the prize and we must keep him. Dike has a much higher ceiling. Sarge is maligned but better than most think. His failure is not being a super player right out the gate.With Gio, Puli and Aaronson, along w the already mentioned players AA ihad little chance. That’s not even counting emerging players. Cade will be in Leipzig this winter and producing and getting time early. Yes, he is that good. AA made the smart choice, Good luck to him except when playing the US.

      • does not matter where he was living if he was US U15 U17 U20 and even full adult team, with a goal, only to lose him before he could be fully cap tied on a switch. at that point, he’s serginho dest whose time here is probably measured in days but has a long long string of US YNT and senior team on his resume. probably the only way to lose these type players is to ask them to try both and see where they feel loyal. otherwise we already had their loyalty, long term, and anything other than that you want to point out is a shiny distraction.

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