Players may now switch national teams at any age as long as they have not featured in an competitive FIFA match. USSF president Sunil Gulati is set to take full advantage of the rule change.
Under the new legislation, players such as Jermaine Jones and Edgar Castillo should be available to suit up for the red, white and blue. Castillo, despite playing for Mexico in Olympic qualifiers, would still be eligible because those are not official FIFA matches.
“We've got some concerns with the rule that was passed in general terms, in either direction,” Gulati said in a conference call. “I think we're likely to benefit by it more often than the alternative, but the thought to me that a player could play in the Olympics and play in a World Cup qualifying game a month later for another country is contrary to the integrity of the national team setup. It's permissible under the rules, and we will certainly play by the rules, but my guess is that rule will get looked at again in the next year or two by the next FIFA congress.”
While the rule remains available for use, U.S. Soccer has shown every intention of maximizing the benefit from it. Jermaine Jones, the son of an American serviceman and a German mother, and Castillo have shown public desire to switch allegiances to America.
“In the case of Jermaine Jones, I believe all the paperwork has been submitted to FIFA for change of eligibility,” confirmed Gulati. “I'm not sure that the final paperwork has been submitted for Edgar Castillo. We have talked with Edgar and his representatives; I met him very briefly in Boston when he was there with Santos. His views, as we've had them expressed directly from the player and his agent, are those that have been outlined in the media. He would prefer to play for the U.S.
“It's up to Bob Bradley when he'd want to bring him in for a look and possible participation with the U.S. team.”
U.S. head coach Bradley could have both players available for selection after October 2, as opposed to the August 2 date that was initially reported. That would give the players just enough time to stake a claim for a 2010 World Cup roster slot.
However, though the U.S. may reap a net gain from the new rule change, there are players who will head the other direction. One such player is the San Jose Earthquakes' Arturo Alvarez. The attacker was capped for the U.S. youth teams but would prefer to play for El Salvador, the birth-country of his parents.
“The rule change allows for it. Arturo hasn't played for the national team in a qualifying game,” said Gulati. “I understand and accept that. The only thing that's different about Arturo than some other cases – say, Neven Subotic – is he had already passed the age of 21. So under those rules he's allowed to do that.”
If you can't lick 'em, join 'em.
Zac Lee Rigg, Goal.com
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