When a player owns more than one passport and is in demand by more than one national team, the choice can come down to a number of factors: Where's his best chance to play? How much travel is involved? Which national team most enhances his market value? To which country does he feel closest? In recent years the U.S. has won some of those battles and lost some. The losses include Giuseppe Rossi, 24, who grew up in Teaneck, N.J., moved to Italy to train at 12 and is now one of the best-regarded young strikers in Europe, a star with Spain's Villarreal and the Italian national team. Another miss was Neven Subotic, 22, a defender for Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund who played for the U.S. U-17 team before settling on Serbia, for which he played in the 2010 World Cup. (He was also eligible to play for Bosnia.)
The U.S. won in the recent case of José Torres, a Mexican-American midfielder who started for the Yanks in the World Cup against Slovenia and in several other instances. Three decades after the first U.S. youth soccer boom, in fact, it's revealing how many players in the national-team pool are still first- or second-generation Americans who'd be eligible to play for other countries. "The U.S. has done a lot for me and my family, and I live here," says Agudelo, who moved to New Jersey from Colombia at age eight and became a U.S. citizen a year later. "My dad wanted me to play for Colombia, but he understands my situation."
Whether you're 18 (like Agudelo) or 29 (like Jones), the U.S. appears to be more than ever a land of opportunity in international soccer. The challenge for Bradley and his staff is to channel E.M. Forster—"Only connect"—and cast a global net for emerging talents with the golden ticket: a blue Uncle Sam passport.
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