El Salvador to call up Alvarez, making switch from U.S. official

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Another one may have just gotten away from the U.S. national team.

The official phone call won't come until Monday, but San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Arturo Alvarez says he is "95 to 96 percent sure" he will be called up by the El Salvador national team for a World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago on Aug. 12, making the Houston native's re-declaration of national-team allegiance official.

The 24-year-old Alvarez has drifted out of the U.S. national-team picture since he last played for the Under-23 team in 2007. Since being shut out, he determined the best chance he'd have to continue his international career was to seek eligibility to play for El Salvador, his parents' birth country.

FIFA's new eligibility rules, passed in June, relaxed the restrictions on such changes. Because Alvarez never played in an official match for the senior U.S. national team, he became eligible to make the switch.

Alvarez says he should get the official word via phone call on Monday, as well as the Salvadoran national team's itinerary for its trip to Port of Spain. "La Selecta" is currently fifth in the six-team CONCACAF Hexagonal final round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup (the top three finishers get automatic berths in South Africa).

El Salvador has been shut out twice in the Hexagonal and certainly could make use of Alvarez, who has scored 21 goals and logged 17 assists over a seven-year career in Major League Soccer. Salvadoran national-team captain Ramón Sánchez, Alvarez's teammate on the Earthquakes, told SI.com last week that Alvarez would be able to help the team immediately and should see playing time in his first game.

According to Alvarez, El Salvador coach Carlos de los Cobos wanted to call him in for a friendly against Colombia in his hometown of Houston on Aug. 7, but Alvarez reluctantly declined that invitation since the Earthquakes have a game the next day against Columbus and MLS isn't obligated to release its players to national-team call-ups until the following day.

FIFA's rule changes have caused a stir in the U.S. national-team picture. German-born holding midfielder Jermaine Jones -- the son of an American serviceman -- is in the middle of transferring his eligibility to play for the U.S. after falling out of the German national-team picture. He could be eligible for a U.S. call-up in October, according to U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati.

It's a similar situation for New Mexico-born left back Edgar Castillo, who has fallen out of the Mexican national-team picture and is trying to switch his allegiance back to the U.S.

Alvarez is the first player to take advantage of the new rules to make the move in the opposite direction. If the switch becomes official, he could play in his second game for El Salvador against his native U.S. on Sept. 5 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

Alvarez joins other U.S.-eligible players who opted to play their international soccer elsewhere: New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi (Italy) and former U.S. youth-team defender Neven Subotic (Serbia). Alvarez isn't as high-profile as that pair, however, and never has appeared to figure into U.S. head coach Bob Bradley's plans.