‘Talk about anointing!’ - Folarin Balogun warned he is not a guaranteed starter for USMNT as Alexi Lalas joins allegiance debate
- Youngster wanted by land of his birth
- Has represented England at U21 level
- Facing a big decision on his future
WHAT HAPPENED? The highly-rated 21-year-old striker is currently caught up in a game of international tug of war between the United States and England. Balogun was born in New York, but moved across the Atlantic at the age of two and has represented England’s U21 side on 13 occasions. He withdrew from the latest Young Lions squad, before heading to Orlando, and is now being tipped to commit his future to an American side that is already counting down the days until it fills a co-hosting role at the 2026 World Cup finals.
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WHAT THEY SAID: Balogun would be a welcome addition to the USMNT ranks, but Lalas has told his State of the Union Podcast that the youngster should not expect to walk straight into the starting XI. He has said: “I mean, so talk about anointing, right? I mean, it's as if, basically, he has a starting position. He has, you know, the keys to the city and all the cities when it comes to America. No, I mean, just the decision, it becomes and hopefully it does because he is a good quality player, just the decision is great. But then you have to actually get into it. And we have seen players that just because their pedigree was good doesn't necessarily mean they come into the national team and they live up to it.
“I hope that he does, because that is a position of need. But don't think for a second that others aren't going to challenge him, even with less pedigree or less experienced going forwards. It's a good thing, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get into it. But it looks good for now, and we've wooed him to the extent that we can or even should and you know now we'll see if all that wooing pays off with him blessing us with his presence going forward.'”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Balogun remains under contract at Premier League heavyweights Arsenal, but he has been starring on loan at Ligue 1 side Reims this season – with 18 goals recorded for them through 29 appearances in all competitions.
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WHAT NEXT? England have vowed to hold more talks with Balogun in a bid to keep him on their side, with senior coach Gareth Southgate and U21 boss Lee Carsley both being asked about the promising frontman, but the United States are confident that they have done enough to lure a hot prospect back to his homeland.