On Monday night the Washington Post confirmed that Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem has become a United States citizen, and as such is eligible to represent the USMNT, managed by Jurgen Klinsmann. Born in Germany to parents of Ethiopian descent, he is eligible to represent both of those countries and has represented Germany at the schoolboy level.
However, Zelalem moved to Washington, DC at the age of nine and lived there until he was 15 at which point he signed with Arsenal's youth team. While living in the United States, he played for Olney Rangers, one of the top youth soccer programs in the country and it was with Rangers that he attracted Arsenal's attention.
However, it was still a large unknown who he would represent internationally. Neither Zelalem nor his parents were American citizens, and he needed a parent to become a naturalized citizen to be eligible to represent the USMNT. The Post report that his father has now become naturalized, and in the last couple of days Gedion Zelalem has become an American citizen.
The 17-year-old midfielder is not immediately eligible to play for the United States, and he has yet to even make a formal announcement on the subject. However, in the Washington Post article referenced earlier, they claim that it is Zelalem's intention to represent America at the international level. The next step will be to await formal FIFA approval, however it now appears that the young Arsenal man could be eligible for a national team call-up as early March when the USMNT face friendlies with Denmark and Switzerland.
He will likely not see significant time with the senior national team, but could see significant minutes at the U-20 World Cup this summer. The United States U-20 National Team head to Jamaica in January for the qualifying tournament, and are heavy favorites to book a place in New Zealand. Additionally, Zelalem could find himself in serious contention for the U-23 squad that the United States will hope to take to Brazil in 2016 for the Olympics.
It should be stressed that Zelalem is still a very young player. He has made an impression at Arsenal, but has only featured twice as a senior player at Arsenal. He made his debut appearance in the FA Cup last season against Coventry City and made a second substitute appearance against Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League this season. However, he has been oft-compared with current Chelsea and Spain star Cesc Fabregas, and all American soccer fans are hopeful he can fulfill that potential.