Yunus Musah is part of a developing United States golden generation that stands to be reaching its peak by the time of the 2026 World Cup on home soil. But the Valencia winger’s international future is still not locked in and other countries have an eye on him.
The 18-year-old has made a first-team breakthrough at Valencia this season after leaving the youth ranks at Arsenal in 2019, as he went in search of more accessible senior prospects.
But despite playing for the USMNT twice in November 2020, Musah remains eligible to represent four different national teams as things stand. Should he wish to, he could switch allegiance to any of the other three before he is permanently committed to the US squad.
Here’s how and why he has four options open to him…
Musah is eligible to play for the USMNT by birth, having been born in New York.
Even though his family didn’t stay in America long and he grew up and attended school elsewhere, he has US citizenship as a birth right and that is what matters for his eligibility.
Musah was called up by USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter for the November international friendlies against Wales and Panama and started both games.
Those appearances alone are not enough to lock him in for the United States because neither was a competitive match. FIFA rules allow switching international allegiance until a player has featured for a country in a competitive setting, whether it be a qualifier or official tournament.
That is the same rule that allowed former USMNT midfielder Jermaine Jones to switch allegiance, even after he had already earned three senior caps for Germany.
For young players like Musah, a new rule passed in 2020 relaxed eligibility rules even more, allowing someone to switch allegiance as long as they have played no more than three competitive appearances for a senior national team before turning 21.
Musah played for England more than 30 times at junior international level and the FA still have an eye on the youngster in the hope he will declare for them before it is too late.
Since the early 1990s, England and the other UK nations have had unusually tight self-imposed rules on eligibility, which are actually stricter than those set out by FIFA. It is because when it comes to players with no blood ties, a UK passport theoretically grants eligibility for any of the four national teams and so they have outlawed it to prevent any disputes.
But there are exceptions in certain circumstances for players born overseas without any other ties to one of the home nations and that is how Musah gained eligibility for England.
Any player who has spent five years in education in England prior to the age of 18 will have eligibility to represent the national team. Musah lived and was educated in England from the age of nine until he moved to Spain at the age of 17.
That education clause only came into effect in 2009 and is the same rule that allowed Raheem Sterling, who was born in Jamaica, to play for England. Wilfried Zaha qualified in the same way, although he later switched allegiance back to Ivory Coast.
Before he moved to England, Musah lived with his family in Italy from soon after birth until the age of nine, which is what gives him eligibility to represent Italy at international level.
There has been much less talk of an Azzurri call-up, with the primary battle for the player’s attention between the United States and England. But it is still at least an option.
The fourth country Musah can represent is Ghana, where his parents were born.
He has never lived in Ghana, nor represented the country at any level, but there are usually a handful of foreign-born players from Ghanaian families in the squad like Andre and Jordan Ayew (both France), Jeffrey Schlupp (Germany) and Tariqe Fosu (England).