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Gabriel Slonina called up by Poland for UEFA Nations League

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The Polish men’s national team’s interest in American teenage goalkeeper sensation Gabriel Slonina has officially gone from initial inquiry to full-fledged pursuit, and the 18-year-old Chicago Fire standout will have a decision to make about his summer plans.

Poland has called up Slonina to be part of its squad for upcoming UEFA Nations League matches in June, against Belgium, Wales and Netherlands. Matches that will take place at a time when the U.S. men’s national team will also be participating in Concacaf Nations League.

Slonina has been part of multiple USMNT squads over the past year, but has yet to make his national team debut, and is not cap-tied. Being part of the Nations League squad for either the United States or Poland would not cap-tie him, and given his young age, playing for either country wouldn’t automatically cap-tie him either.

Poland’s interest in the highly-regarded goalkeeper prospect is nothing new, with Poland manager Czeslaw Michniewicz having recently visited Slonina in April to express interested in bringing him into the fold.

Slonina is the best young goalkeeper in the USMNT pipeline, and is enjoying a solid season in goal with the Chicago Fire despite the team’s disappointing results. The teenager is in his first full campaign as a club starter after breaking into the Fire lineup during the 2021 season at the age of 17.

Joining Poland for the Nations League would not require a one-time switch, and simply being on Poland’s roster for those matches would not cap-tie him. Coincidentally, it was just one year ago when goalkeeper David Ochoa was part of the USMNT squad for the Concacaf Nations League final only to later switch his national team allegiance to Mexico.

Berhalter currently has Zack Steffen and Matt Turner as his top two goalkeepers in the USMNT setup, but with both facing the prospect of not playing regularly heading into the FIFA World Cup later this year, Slonina has suddenly emerged as a potential darkhorse candidate for playing time despite his young age and relative inexperience.

Even if being a factor for the upcoming World Cup is a long shot for Slonina at his age, there is no denying his value as an elite prospect, and losing him to Poland would be a big blow for a USMNT setup that isn’t overflowing with top young goalkeeper prospects.

Poland has a good collection of goalkeepers, with four of them joining Slonina on the Nations League list, including Juventus starter Wojciech Szczesny and fellow Serie A goalkeepers Bartlomiej Dragowski (Fiorentina) and Lukasz Skorupski (Bologna), but Slonina is a top-level prospect drawing transfer links to European giants so securing his services would be a coup.

The good news for the USMNT is that FIFA rules governing national team eligibility for young players has changed over the years, with safeguards being instituted to keep national teams from cap-tying young players with caps at young ages. As an 18-year-old, Slonina will be able to play for Poland in multiple matches if he chooses to and not be cap-tied, much the same way Yunus Musah was not initially cap-tied to the USMNT after his first handful of national team appearances.

Both the USMNT and Poland will be competing in the World Cup in November, and a World Cup roster spot could be the enticement that ultimately seals his commitment, though Slonina has been clear about not wanting to rush into any decisions about his national team future.

Comments

  1. After last night’s game, Poland can have him!

    Just kidding, but maybe we should slow down a little with this kid. He’s still got a long way to go before he’s a viable option for the national team.

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    • y’all confuse soccer with a perfect meritocratic sorting machine. teams routinely field young players to commit them — legally, morally, or emotionally — earlier than merit might suggest. y’all are dragging in some sort of ethical purity test where we for all players must wait until they are absolutely ready and give them all the room in the world to shop around. this used to be done the exact opposite here. commit them up front and cap em early.

      maybe we should have let pulisic go trial with croatia, explore his feelings, we weren’t sure he’d be this good, blah blah blah. be aggressive and let their quality sort out their role here. i doubt they will be all torn up inside that they got capped by the USA. just fake self-flagellating nonsense.

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      • When Pulisic started with the national team, he was national team level.
        Slonina let in a goal last night that, if he had closed his eyes and put his arms at his side, he would have stopped.

      • We can’t tie him up and prevent him from going with Poland, so I’m not sure what you want Berhalter to do. Slonina got called into senior national team camps in December and January, even though he does not yet appear to be on the level of Sean Johnson, much less Steffen, Turner and Horvath.
        For all we know, Berhalter calls him every week to tell him how great he is and sends him flowers on the first of every month.

      • You are forgetting that the other guys on the team are there to win and so is the manager. If your playing guys who are not ready and you lose matches that matter (ie Nations League) you might not have a job long enough to play him if and when he’s good enough. Few quicker ways to lose a locker room than play guys that don’t deserve to play. And few quicker ways to get fired than losing your locker room.

      • you think you’re slick but you’re not. first off, again, not everything has to be done on absolute merit. he is a full professional. i think he could be tossed on for the last 15′ of the bosnia friendly without destroying the USMNT. friendlies don’t count. and we won anyway. we have also had some blowout WCQ wins with 5 subs allowed where he could have been tossed in up 5-1 or something. we could have told him he would play this grenada game that will hardly be a contest. not every game has to be run like US-Mexico in a WCQ.

        no, we routinely brought him in — and then didn’t use him at all. i believe you advocated those calls but are now disavowing he should ever have been used and capped where he would have some degree of legal or moral or emotional obligation. odd.

      • and, in terms of your fake “lockerroom” worries, i seriously doubt a lockerroom revolt happens more over a single cap tie sub of a player he was routinely bringing into that lockerroom without negative response — vs over his general incompetence, odd tactics, and 3rd place table finish. really. c’mon dude. spin. spin. spin. you can formulate some fake logic but where is the reporting where anyone on the team was rubbed wrong by slonina. just make some more stuff up.

      • He’s not 21 you’d have sub him instead of someone else multiple times. I think it’s 4 but it’s too late to look up. I would have played 2nd half vs Bosnia but it still wouldn’t have tied him. If you play him vs Panama then if he’s intrigued he has to file a switch and there’s no return. Now if he goes and doesn’t like it he’s still eligible.

  2. That’s great, quozzel, assuming he sees things your way.
    And if he doesn’t then all your logic won’t mean anything to him.

    Maybe he thinks he can beat the odds.
    Since he already has.
    He’s a teenage keeper starting in MLS (no mean feat there), is being hailed as the next greatest thing since kielbasa and is having important people show up from Poland praising him to the nines.

    There’s a reason all this is happening.

    Remember what it was like to be 19 super talented and having international teams fighting over you?

    No?
    Me neither.

    But I’ll bet Slonina is a pretty confident kid and knows he’s got a good thing going.

    He doesn’t think much about obstacles. He’s more concerned about the great things he can do rather than the terrible failures he might have to face.

    And guess what? He might actually be right about himself.
    You’re betting against him.
    He’s betting on himself.

    It will be fun to see who is right.

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  3. I don’t think allowing players to choose is a bad thing. We need players who want to wear that jersey more than anything in their lives. If going to a camp in another country convinces them they want to play for the country their parents or grandparents were born in they wouldn’t have made good players for us anyway. Those that see what the other side is like and still come back to the USA wont be wondering what could have been when things get tough. Remember how many of us complained about the lack of fight in the Germanicans in the 2018 cycle? We don’t need anymore of that stuff.

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  4. Mr. Voice,

    If you read the article neither team can cap tie him anytime soon.
    He’s free to take a little time to choose.

    What a concept, a kid having the chance to take some time over a life altering decision.

    Reply
    • Technically they could play him all four matches I believe and he’d be locked but that seems pretty unlikely.

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    • my understanding is a player below a certain age has to wait 3 years. and you’re confusing the rules with the heart. one cap might do it for a player who wants to be convinced.

      i think it’s a lazy GB notion to fart around and trust that the player will only flirt with the opposition within reversible limits. he’s lost enough he should know better than they will all shop and come back.

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  5. if you’re gonna drool over him why not cap tie him, greg? not even a single game to sell it.

    to those questioning what poland offers vs. us, first off, poland is going to actually play him now, and perhaps even put him on a world cup roster. second, keeper age is not like field player age, the 26 year olds could be ahead of him for a decade, but 30+ types are on their last tournament.

    last, i have criticized GB’s approach because it seems to encourage this sort of ambivalence, shopping, and emotional consideration of the other choice. prior coaching approaches rewarded loyalty with prompt and probably early cap tie calls. GB almost rewards either performing uncertainty or having it. you let players wander about you will probably lose several. he’s lost a nuts amount of players and there were rumors others are considering out eg ledezma.

    i get with the euro-xerox tactical concepts we’re now seemingly wanting to become ethical purists who only cap tie players because we “mean it” but we will get drubbed and lose a chunk of the player boom if we take this low key, shop your choice approach. with the world cup secured and an abundance of talent and potential success, we should be golden. he’s frittered away regional dominance for squeaking in and he’s losing a lot of ochoa-type talents with his affection for “earning it.” geez, just play them once or twice, that will probably get it done.

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    • the irony of the way we go about it, is GB is kind of right, mexico etc. may just “cap and forget.” they won some dudes who haven’t played for mexico in years and barely made any WCQ rosters. but the other half to selling that is aggressively capping them here. he gets credit for chasing obvious starters but a lot of what we need is to create position fights at the edge of the roster. the last mids, backs, forwards, keepers for the 23. for them you might want to cap people and give them a chance who may not be sure things to make this team. we need to quit with the ethical purity stuff and see it as their opportunity. this is your shot. based on how well you play we will see if you come back. general history is most one-hit wonders a la nguyen aren’t all that depressed they picked the USA then got forgotten. they like the accolade. i don’t get why we grind our teeth about how unfair it is to aggressively chase players who may not continue to make the team. who doesn’t want to play for america? so evil to call them. sheesh.

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    • How do you know Poland is going to play him now? They’ve called 4 other keepers, 3 of whom are starters in SerieA.

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      • i trust that they will do what it takes including an 85′ keeper sub up 3-0 or something. i kind of doubt they would go to the effort to bring him in and then take the same lazy approach.

        also, you’re implicitly using GB’s mental framework which is half the problem. not everything in soccer is done on pure merit. they can leapfrog him ahead for a game, cap him, then go back to merit. GB seems too dumb to realize that maybe we can still beat the worst teams on the schedule while tying up a teenage keeper. i wouldn’t do it for mexico or canada but you can use different parts of the schedule for different purposes.

    • If you read the article neither team can cap tie him anytime soon.
      He’s free to take a little time to choose.

      What a concept, a kid having the chance to take some time over a life altering decision.

      Reply
      • wrong, he would be gone for at least 3 years, legally, and let’s be real, not everything goes by the rules. emotionally, one cap might be irreversible. you understand other things are afoot than just how the rules read?

  6. My understanding is that if he appears in any of these matches for Poland and he then wants to play for us he will be ineligible for 3 years? I’m hopeful he’s just there to check out the team and hang out a bit, I would be concerned if he actually suits up for them.

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  7. Poland’s got nothing really to offer him. They have Wojciech Szczęsny – aged 32. who starts for Juve, and Łukasz Skorupski, aged 31, who starts for Bologna ahead of him…and then for younger keepers they have Bartłomiej Drągowski, aged 24, who had 81 appearances for Fiorentina and is now on loan with Empoli, and Kamil Grabara, who was with Liverpool until 2021 before he was sold to Copenhagen. The top two will clearly stay the 1-2 through the World Cup and maybe longer since keepers have longer careers, and the next guys will be around probably the next 8+ years as well.

    Contrariwise for the USA there’s no real prospects after Steffen (27), Turner (27, about to turn 28 in June), and Ethan Horvath (26, will turn 27 also in June). So there’s that generation in a lump, and an acre of space for Slonina to stake his claim.

    Given that he was born and raised here. played in the USA’s youth setup, and the superior team – and superior opportunity – is clearly here, it’s hard to imagine Poland somehow steals him unless they just plain do an amazing recruiting job. ESPECIALLY when they’re inviting him in as the #5 guy behind four other keepers.

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    • Q- can you please send you response to him, just in case. It is a very compelling argument for not choosing Poland. Thanks!!

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    • No real prospects? Odunze at Liecester City age 19, Celentano at FC Cincinatti age 21, and Brady 18 at Chicago FC currently the back up but Slonina has not been good the past few weeks. Brady may end up becoming the # 1 for Chicago soon. Yes Slonina looks promising, but I am not really worried in the GK department in the future.

      Reply
    • The challenge would be if Poland offered him a World Cup spot as a 3rd keeper. That would be hard for any kid to pass up.

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      • It still would only cap tie him if he actually plays in the WC though, right? Just being there as a 3rd keeper doesn’t do anything.

      • But how much turmoil would this cause in the Polish team when it seems there are better players who would be left off the team? The “cap him now” crowd constantly forgets this idea.

      • JR – According to ESPN:

        “Under FIFA rules, a player may appear into up to three matches for a national team before turning 21 without being tied to the team.”

        So Slonina wouldn’t be tied to them until his 4th game, or until he plays for them after turning 21?

    • I’m not really disagreeing with you, because I think there are a lot of good reasons for Slonina to prefer the USA over Poland. But the argument that he should go with the USA because Poland has 4 keepers ahead of him (2 of whom may not be around in ’26) while the USA only has 3 keepers ahead of him (all 3 likely to still be in the picture for ’26) isn’t the strongest.

      Reply
    • That’s great, quozzel, assuming he sees things your way.
      And if he doesn’t then all your logic won’t mean anything to him.

      Maybe he thinks he can beat the odds.
      Since he already has.
      He’s a teenage keeper starting in MLS (no mean feat there), is being hailed as the next greatest thing since kielbasa and is having important people show up from Poland praising him to the nines.

      There’s a reason all this is happening.

      Remember what it was like to be 19 super talented and having international teams fighting over you?

      No?
      Me neither.

      But I’ll bet Slonina is a pretty confident kid and knows he’s got a good thing going.

      He doesn’t think much about obstacles. He’s more concerned about the great things he can do rather than the terrible failures he might have to face.

      And guess what? He might actually be right about himself.
      You’re betting against him.
      He’s betting on himself.

      It will be fun to see who is right.

      Reply

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