Folarin Balogun has said that making the choice to represent the United States at the international level was a “no-brainer” as he and U.S. Soccer confirmed on Tuesday that FIFA approved his one-time switch to don the uniform of the red, white, and blue.
News began to surface in the morning that the New York-born forward had finally made a decision on his international future and soccer’s world governing body gave their stamp of approval. Balogun was eligible to represent three countries – namely the United States, England, and Nigeria.
The 21-year-old has been having a breakout season in France’s Ligue 1 as he’s bagged 19 goals for Reims. However, that type of form would not earn him a call-up to England’s senior national team as head coach Gareth Southgate elected to have him continue playing for the Under-21 team.
Balogun then decided to pull out of the team for their March games and headed across the pond to the United States where he met with the coaching staff of the U.S. men’s national team. However, both sides remained coy about what they discussed.
Now, with the news confirmed of the Arsenal Academy graduate’s decision to play for the U.S., he went on to explain his decision-making process.
“My decision to represent the United States came together with my family,” said Balogun in a statement from U.S. Soccer. “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.”
Balogun noted that part of his decision to play for the Americans came from what he experienced when he visited Florida in March.
“I think that’s when I really saw the full force of the U.S. fans,” he 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.”
As for the U.S. men’s national team, they couldn’t be happier that Balogun decided to play for them over England.
“We are delighted that Folarin has chosen to represent the United States,” said USMNT interim head coach Anthony Hudson. “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.”
Balogun will have the opportunity to earn his first cap for the U.S. when they face cross-border rivals Mexico in the semifinals of the Concacaf Nations League in June.