Like several past and current US players, Musah has multiple passports and the ability to choose his national team: the US (where he was born), Ghana (the home of his parents), Italy (where he spent much of his childhood) or England (where he was part of the Arsenal Academy).
Musah, who plays for the Spanish club Valencia, has played with English youth national teams for several years. However, since he did not take part in a FIFA-approved competition for the national team such as the European Championship or a World Cup qualifier, he remains internationally without problems.
The same rules apply to his US status: Thursday’s game was a friendly that left him untied. The Americans are expected to compete in several official competitions next year, starting with the Nations League semi-finals in March.
“We can only hope that he will select us for the long term,” said US coach Gregg Berhalter.
Some others in the US camp are multinational, although most are either “tied” – the term used to describe a player who is tied to a program – or have been promoted through the US system and intend to stay.
Sebastian Soto, a 20-year-old forward from Carlsbad, California, is of Chilean and Mexican descent and turned down an offer from Chile in September. Ulysses Llanez, a 19-year-old Los Angeles striker, has spent some time in Mexican youth camps but scored a goal against Costa Rica on his US debut on February 1.
Tim Weah could also choose Liberia, France or Jamaica. His father George played for the Liberian national team and is now the country’s president. The 20-year-old forward was born in New York, raised in the US, and joined the US youth setup in 2015.
Two rising stars, Christian Pulisic (Hershey, Pennsylvania) from Chelsea and Gio Reyna (Bedford, NY) from Borussia Dortmund, have been admitted multiple times but have never thought of practicing internationally. They had used ancestral ties to obtain second passports – Pulisics Croatian and Reynas Portuguese – to start a club career in Europe before the age limit of 18.
“We never had a conversation” about representing another country, said Reyna’s father Claudio, a former US captain. “Because he’s as American as you can get.”
For US players with stronger ties abroad, the outlook is not clear.
Defense attorney Sergiño Dest, 20, who grew up in the Netherlands, said he didn’t enter the United States until he was 14, but because his father was American, he had options.
He joined the US U17 national team four years ago and got involved in the US last year, despite the interest of the Dutch senior program. Appearing in a Nations League game last November meant there was no going back.
“My heart told me that the US was the best option for me,” the Barcelona newcomer told ESPNFC.com. “I played in their youth teams and I feel at home there.”
Jürgen Klinsmann, the German-born US coach from 2011 to 2016, often turned to German-Americans, such as defender John Brooks, who started the US youth program, joined a German U20 camp and then signed to the US . He is the only member of the 2014 US World Cup in the current camp.
The US program also lost some players. New Jersey’s Giuseppe Rossi chose Italy and scored seven goals in 30 games for the Azzurri. Mexico has had some success tracking US players of Mexican descent for youth teams for years.
“It’s part of international football,” said Berhalter. “I’m always cautious, I want to know how the player is connected to the USA. Do you feel it in your heart? Do you feel like you want to be part of this team? Do you feel connected to the United States? We want to create a team that has a deep passion for representing our country. “
Making players feel welcome and creating bonds helps increase the chances of keeping them. In Dest’s case, former US Under-17 coach John Hackworth remembered the newcomer being excited to learn about American culture and team dynamics at his first camp in Bradenton, Florida.
In the summer of 2017, Hackworth said on a team outing to a waterfall in a Georgia State Park, “He was the last player to go.” “He got my wife to take 20 pictures of him. He really enjoyed his time. Hopefully that had a big impact on him. “
Part of the US appeal is the ability to gamble; It is easier to form the US squad than the French or English squads. The promising outlook of the US program, supported by several players from major European clubs, has also become a selling point.
“With the quality that we have in our national team,” said RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams, a New Yorker, “it is more attractive for players to want to represent the USA.”
In Musah’s case, US workers followed him for a year and a half as he rose to Valencia’s first team. It spoke extensively with its family and, despite its commitment to England, invited to this camp.
“We’re trying to sell the program,” said Berhalter. “Sometimes it doesn’t work, and sometimes you come out on the right end.”