From Folarin Balogun to Jermaine Jones: The USMNT's biggest dual-national recruiting wins
Dual nationals have always been a key part of the USMNT, and recruitment of these players is only growing more important as the Stars and Stripes try to reach new heights. They have a good track record of convincing people to commit to the cause, the successful mission to secure Folarin Balogun the latest in a long line of big gets.
Sure, players such as Neven Subotic and Giuseppe Rossi ended up playing elsewhere, but many of the USMNT's most important players of the past and present at one point could have chosen to play international soccer for another country. From the pre-1994 recruitment to Jurgen Klinsmann's German influence, its part of the fabric of the USMNT.
With that said, GOAL takes a look back at some of the biggest commitments in USMNT history...
- U.S. girls youth soccer: Inside the imperfect 'eggs against the wall' system still producing USWNT stars
- Leicester City: The best team to ever suffer Premier League relegation?
- MLS salaries revealed for 2023: Flop-filled highest-paid list includes Xherdan Shaqiri and Douglas Costa in top 10
- How much is Cristiano Ronaldo to blame for Al-Nassr's Saudi Pro League title failure?
We'll start with the most recent addition to this list. Balogun's recruitment was perhaps the most chaotic in USMNT history, with his trip to Orlando whipping American soccer into a frenzy. The flag emojis were out in full force on every social media post and, ultimately, it ended up working out.
There was a path for Balogun to play for England, although it would have taken some time with Harry Kane still at the peak of his powers. He could have also chosen Nigeria. With the USMNT, though, Balogun will get a chance to be the star heading into the 2026 World Cup.
Before Balogun, Musah was the English starlet who quickly emerged as an American soccer darling.
After joining the U.S. for a friendly in 2020, the midfielder committed to the USMNT in 2021, having previously played for England at youth level. At the World Cup, Gareth Southgate admitted he was frustrated by the situation but, by that point, it was too late.
Musah was a key starter in Qatar, including in the draw against England, and, at just 20, its a safe bet to say it won't be his last World Cup starring for the USMNT on the biggest stage.
Another player who faced a country near and dear to his heart in Qatar, Dest has been a key figure since joining the U.S. youth system at the Under-17 level. His youth experience with the U.S. ultimately convinced him to commit to the program despite interest from the Netherlands, his country of birth.
At the time, Dest was starring for Ajax, and it wasn't long until he was making his big move to Barcelona. Life at Camp Nou hasn't quite worked out, and a loan move to AC Milan surely hasn't, but Dest remains a key figure with the U.S.
The Club America star remains new to the program, but he's already shown glimpses of what he can do. Zendejas controversially played for Mexico prior to re-committing to the USMNT earlier this year. A war of words broke out between the winger and Tata Martino, but that doesn't matter now as his time with El Tri is over.
The winger appears to be a solid option to challenge those that went to Qatar, with his ability on the ball offering a nice change of pace should the next coach want something different.
- Getty Images
Before Balogun, Pepi was the USMNT's striker of the future, and he still could be. And, before Balogun, it was Pepi who faced a tough choice internationally.
After his breakout with FC Dallas, Pepi could have played for either the USMNT or Mexico. He represented both on the youth level but eventually opted for the U.S. ahead of World Cup qualifying.
A dip in form with Augsburg cost him a World Cup spot but, now scoring again for Groningen, Pepi is the best bet to push Balogun for a starting spot.
Another new face, Tillman turned down interest from Germany in order to join up with the USMNT.
The midfielder joined Rangers from Bayern Munich in 2022 and went on to establish himself as Scotland's best young player. His rise didn't come in time for a World Cup spot, but there's little doubt that Tillman will have a part to play going forward. It remains to be seen what position he'll play with the U.S. but, wherever he is, Tillman looks like a contributor with a bright, bright future.
Widely seen as one of the game's next great goalkeeper, Slonina faced a tough choice. He became a star with the Chicago Fire as a teenager, drawing interest from both the USMNT and Poland. The goalkeeper quickly committed to the USMNT, though, confirming his intentions of playing for his country of birth.
It may take some time for him to take the No. 1 spot, as he is still a teenager, but his development at Chelsea will be something to keep an eye on in the coming years.
- Getty Images
One of the most memorable USMNT World Cup goalscorers of all time. Who could forget Brooks' header against Ghana in 2014? It was stunning, with Brook himself the most surprised person in the stadium based on his reaction. He became a mainstay from that point forward until falling out of the picture under Gregg Berhalter as qualifying began in 2021.
Could Brooks make a resurgence under a new manager to add to his 45 career caps? It's too soon to tell, but the German-born defender, who featured for his birth country at U-20 level, already has a signature USMNT moment matched by few others in program history. He has said he'd love to come back.
Another German-born star with a signature World Cup moment. Jones' thunderbolt against Portugal is unforgettable, but it's only one highlight from what was a fantastic USMNT career. He finished with 69 caps, starring at both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Copa America after previously featuring for Germany on the senior level.
Throughout his USMNT career, Jones set the tone in the midfield, proving to be one of the best players American soccer has seen in that position.
Another player who played elsewhere at youth level, Johnson famously won the U-21 European Championship with Germany in 2009, starring alongside future stars Mesut Ozil, Sam Khedira, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer in a 4-0 win over England in the final.
In 2011, he was called up by USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann and, after filing a one-time switch, Johnson was USMNT-bound. He was a key figure in the lead-up to and during the 2014 World Cup, starting each of their matches in Brazil that summer. In total, he made 57 caps in six years, scoring twice.
- Frederick Breedon
At the time of his arrival, Julian Green was the biggest recruiting win in USMNT history. He was on the precipice of playing for Bayern and, just before the 2014 World Cup, he made his move.
His goal against Belgium was unforgettable, with many thinking it would be a sign of things to come. Ultimately, it was his biggest moment as Green never really became a star with the national team. Now playing for Greuther Furth in the 2. Bundesliga, Green earned 15 total caps for the USMNT, with none coming since 2018.
Younger fans will know him as the former U.S. Soccer sporting director, but the Dutch-born Stewart was one hell of a midfielder. Stewart made 101 appearances for the USMNT, starring for the U.S. from 1990-2004. He is best remembered for his goal against Colombia at the 1994 World Cup that helped the U.S. reach the knockout stages.
He departed his U.S. Soccer executive position after the 2022 World Cup to work at PSV.
- Getty Images
Ahead of the 1994 World Cup, U.S. Soccer began to look for players abroad eligible for the USMNT. It discovered Dooley, and the federation will sure be glad it did.
Starring in the Bundesliga at the time, Dooley immediately became a mainstay for the U.S., playing every minute at the 1994 World Cup. He then captained the U.S. at the 1998 tournament before ending his career in 1999 with 81 total caps.