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.