Balogun dumps Nigeria for US

Balogun dumps Nigeria for US


The United States can select Folarin Balogun after the England under-21 forward, who has starred for Ligue 1 side Reims this season, opted to represent the 2026 World Cup co-host.

FIFA said on Tuesday it approved a request by the U.S. Soccer Federation to change Balogun’s national eligibility from England. The 21-year-old New York-born player also was eligible for Nigeria.

Balogun has enjoyed a breakout season in France’s top tier, on loan from Arsenal, scoring 19 goals and dueled with Kylian Mbappe for part of the season to be the league’s top scorer. Mbappe now leads with 26 goals for Paris Saint-Germain.

Balogun was born in Brooklyn, but his Nigerian parents had been living in London.

“My parents were on holiday there for a few months because we have family in New York,” Balogun said in an interview with the French league website earlier this season. “But very soon after I was born, we all moved back to London.”

Balogun also said: “London is my city, it’s where I grew up, where my friends are, and if people ask me where I’m from, I say I’m English. But, yes, I am a mixture of all these cultures.”

He played for England and the U.S. at youth level before establishing himself with England’s U21s.

His decision to represent the U.S. comes five weeks before England plays in the U21 European Championship hosted by Romania and Georgia. The English Football Association (FA) also had to consent to the change of eligibility.

FIFA rules allow players to change national eligibility before playing in a competitive game at senior level.

The U.S. courted Balogun on a visit to Florida in March and can select him for the CONCACAF Gold Cup which it hosts from June 24-July 16.

Balogun is not the first footballer with Nigerian blood to dump the country for the US. Below, PUNCH Sports Extra takes a look at the four who previously chose the Yankees ahead of the most populated country in Africa.

Azuka Habor

Retired striker Harbor, born September 19, 1965 in Lagos, played for numerous clubs in Nigeria and the US, where he earned 15 caps with the US national team after becoming an American citizen in 1992.

After being raised in Nigeria, Harbor left for the US and attended college at Alabama A&M University in Normal, Alabama the United States. He majored in chemistry and was a forward on the men’s soccer team from 1983 to 1986, and held the school’s career scoring record when he graduated.

In 1992, Harbor became an American citizen and then US coach Bora Milutinović quickly called him up for an October 9, 1992 match against Canada. Harbor went on to earn 14 caps while Milutinovic was coach, but was unable to score.

However, the Serb dropped him from the national team after the 1993 Copa America and the 1994 World Cup squads, but he earned one more cap under Steve Sampson on October 16, 1996, afthe regular national team players had gone on strike and USSF was forced to field an ad hoc player line up for a game against Peru.

Oguchi Onyewu

Hard-as-nails defender played for the American senior team from 2004 to 2014.

Onyewu’s parents moved to the United States from Nigeria to study in Washington, D.C, and early in his career, he represented the U.S. at various youth levels, including at the 2001 U-20 World Cup. He made his first appearance for the senior national team on October 13, 2004, against Panama.

Onyewu scored his first international goal in the 2005 Gold Cup, nodding home the extra time winner in the semi-final against Honduras, before he was later named in the tournament Best XI.[51]

Oguchi played for the United States in the 2006 World Cup, and started in all three group games. Just before halftime of the third and final group stage match against Ghana, Onyewu conceded a penalty from which the Africans scored, and the United States eliminated after the 2–1 defeat.

During his professional career, he played for clubs in France, Belgium, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United States.

Onyewu earned over 60 caps with the for the US, featuring at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. He is the most recent male defender to win the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award (2006).

At 6ft4, Onyewu is the second-tallest outfield player in United States national team history, after Omar Gonzalez.

Daryl Dike

Born November 2020 in Oklahoma to Nigerian parents, Dike was first called up to the United States national team for a friendly against El Salvador but was dropped after picking up an injury in training.

The 22-year-old West Bromwich Albion forward then made his debut for the Americans January 31, 2021, as a 65th-minute substitute for Paul Arriola in a 7–0 friendly win over Trinidad and Tobago.

In May 2021, Dike was again called up for the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League Finals but did not make the final squad. He scored his first international goal on June 9, 2021, in a 4–0 friendly win over Costa Rica at Rio Tinto Stadium. In July 2021, Dike was named to the final 23-player roster for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. On July 15, 2021 he scored his first competitive — a brace — during a 6–1 group stage win over Martinique.

The youngest of five siblings, Dike’s eldest brother, Bright, played for the Super Eagles, with sister, Courtney, also capped by Nigeria, making two appearances at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Dike is the cousin of retired Eagles striker Emmanuel Emenike.

Jonathan Amon

Amon’s father is from Nigeria but emigrated to the United States at a young age to play football at the high school level.

Amon was first called up in January 2018 to the United States U-20 side for a training camp in Florida. On November 4, 2018, he made his senior team debut with the senior national team in a friendly against Peru.

The winger, 24, is regarded as one of the most gifted young players in America.

His older brother, Joseph, also played football and was named to the U.S. squad for the 2011 U-17 World Cup.

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