Balogun given green light to play for USMNT

The United States can select Folarin Balogun after the England under-21 forward, who has starred for Ligue 1 side Reims this season, opted to represent the 2026 World Cup co-host.

FIFA said on Tuesday it approved a request by the U.S. Soccer Federation to change Balogun’s national eligibility from England. The 21-year-old New York-born player also was eligible for Nigeria.

Balogun confirmed the move in a video on his social media accounts using the slogans “I’m coming home” and “Let’s make history.”

It was the first ever post on his Instagram account, which already had 265,000 followers.

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Balogun has enjoyed a breakout season in France’s top tier, on loan from Arsenal, scoring 19 goals and dueled with Kylian Mbappe for part of the season to be the league’s top scorer. Mbappe now leads with 26 goals for Paris Saint-Germain.

Balogun was born in Brooklyn, but his Nigerian parents had been living in London.

“My parents were on holiday there for a few months because we have family in New York,” Balogun said in an interview with the French league website earlier this season. “But very soon after I was born, we all moved back to London.”

Balogun also said: “London is my city, it’s where I grew up, where my friends are, and if people ask me where I’m from, I say I’m English. But, yes, I am a mixture of all these cultures.”

He played for England and the U.S. at youth level before establishing himself with England’s U21s.

“My decision to represent the United States came together with my family,” Balogun said on Tuesday. “In the end it became a no-brainer, but for sure it’s just something I wanted to do and it feels like I’m at home here. To represent the United States means a lot, more than people would know. I’m very proud and honored to have this opportunity, and I want to give everything I have to make our team successful.”

His decision to represent the U.S. comes five weeks before England plays in the U21 European Championship hosted by Romania and Georgia. The English Football Association (FA) also had to consent to the change of eligibility.

“We are delighted that Folarin has chosen to represent the United States,” USMNT head coach Anthony Hudson said in a statement. “Not only is he an extremely talented player, he’s also a good man who is going to add value to our National Team both on and off the field at a time when the team is continuing to improve. It’s clear that he values his U.S. roots and we can’t wait for him to come in and be a part of the team.”

FIFA rules allow players to change national eligibility before playing in a competitive game at senior level.

The U.S. courted Balogun on a visit to Florida in March and can select him for the CONCACAF Gold Cup which it hosts from June 24-July 16.

Balogun said he felt the love from supporters during that visit.

“I think that’s when I really saw the full force of the U.S. fans,” Balogun said. “I was there and I just posted a photo with my friends thinking that it was just a holiday picture. Before I knew it, I just saw loads of comments and people knew I was in America, and I just really felt the love from there. There’s been a lot of build-up, so I’ve obviously seen people saying that I should choose to represent the U.S., and it’s just something I’m really happy that I’ve decided to do.”


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