You can chalk up another big victory for U.S. men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann in the recruiting battle for talented young hyphenated Americans in the soccer world.
Gedion Zelalem, a 17-year-old midfielder who recently made his Champions League debut for Arsenal, has become a U.S. citizen and is set to receive his passport today, SI.com has confirmed.
Zelalem’s citizenship news was first reported by the Washington Post, which added that Zelalem plans to play for the United States. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati later confirmed as much in a tweet:
Born in Germany to Ethiopian parents, Zelalem emigrated to the Washington, D.C., area in 2006 at age 9 and played six years of youth soccer there. He was discovered by Arsenal scout Danny Karbassiyoon and signed with Arsenal in 2013. Zelalem has made two appearances for Arsenal’s senior team, one in the FA Cup against Coventry City earlier this year and one in the UEFA Champions League against Galatasaray earlier this month.
Zelalem has played for Germany at the youth level, but not in any official competitions. The earliest he could become cap-tied to the U.S. would be in this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
A central midfielder with excellent passing vision, Zelalem could join a list of hyphenated Americans who have chosen to play for the U.S. under Klinsmann, including Julian Green, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Aron Jóhannsson and Joe Corona.
“Gedion is another special talent,” Klinsmann told SI in a May 2014 interview. “He was in the same [U.S. under-15] camp as my son two years ago, and they spoke German. We’ve followed him throughout this whole stretch and are constantly in touch with him. We watch his games with the [Arsenal] under-19s. We are in touch with [Arsenal executive] Ivan Gazidis and [manager] Arsene Wenger. Our interest is huge in the kid.”