USMNT-eligible Folarin Balogun CONFIRMED to be in United States as NBA's Orlando Magic honor him before game with custom jersey

Balogun Matt Turner GFXOrlando Magic / Getty
  • Balogun photographed at Magic game
  • Speculation continues regarding international future
  • USMNT to play Grenada and El Salvador

WHAT HAPPENED? The Magic took to Twitter to welcome the striker to their game against the New York Knicks on Thursday night, officially confirming that Balogun was indeed in Orlando. Their tweet came amid intense speculation about Balogun, who had hinted on social media that he was indeed in Florida near U.S. men's national team training camp.

The USMNT, meanwhile, confirmed it was interested in adding him to the squad and Arsenal's Matt Turner said he had spoken with Balogun last summer about the situation.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Balogun's international future has become a massive story in both the U.S. and England after the on-loan Arsenal striker pulled out of U21s duty with the Three Lions due to injury. Shortly after, he was photographed in Orlando, adding fuel to rumors that he could be nearly ready to switch his international allegiance and join the USMNT.

Recruiting Balogun would be a massive achievement for the U.S., which has been looking for a starting striker for some time. The striker, who is on loan from Arsenal at Reims, is second in Ligue 1 with 17 goals, with only Kylian Mbappe scoring more.

AND WHAT'S MORE: England U21s coach Lee Carsley was flabbergasted by the situation, not realizing that Balogun had any intention of leaving the Three Lions. He said Balogun "didn’t give me any inkling that there was an issue or that he was thinking of doing anything in the future."

"I spoke to Flo on Monday, he obviously completed 90 minutes on Sunday, felt his right hamstring an injury that he’s had previously," Carsley added to The Athletic. "The doctor has confirmed that with our doctor. So you can only take what they’re saying to be accurate."

WHAT NEXT FOR BALOGUN? While an international decision may or may not be imminent, Balogun's next club match will come on April 2 when Reims face Nantes.

Before that, though, he may be in attendance when the USMNT hosts El Salvador on Monday after Friday night's trip to Grenada.

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