Ex-USMNT star Eric Wynalda slams ‘English arrogance’ over Folarin Balogun battle and insists Gareth Southgate ‘completely underestimated’ starlet’s ability Arsenal after choosing USA over England
Retired US midfielder Eric Wynalda has claimed ‘English arrogance’ led USMNT new boy Folarin Balogun to turn his back on the country he was raised in to choose to represent his country of birth .
“Gareth Southgate certainly made a few missteps here with his comments about the talented American playing in France,” the National Soccer Hall of Famer with 104 caps for his country told The Action Network.
“Southgate said: ‘We can’t just give a player international opportunities just because we don’t want him to play for someone else.’ Whoops – If he could take that one back now, I think he would.
‘Southgate completely underestimated Folarin’s ability and tried to ignore him. Sorry, but there are times when English arrogance needs to be lit up and this is one of them.
While still weighing his options, FA representatives approached Balogun once they learned of the poaching of the Arsenal striker by the US Soccer Federation, telling the 21-year-old he would have good chances of being capped at senior level for the Three Lions after playing. for the U-21 team in the team’s quest to win the UEFA European Championship in Romania and Georgia in July.
Ex-USMNT star Eric Wynalda says Gareth Southgate will regret not capping Folarin Balogun
Balogun chose to represent the United States rather than England, for whom he played in U-21, and Nigeria
The player himself, however, wanted to play where he felt valued. The timing of Balogun’s change couldn’t have come at a better time, with North America set to host the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
‘He said [USMNT representatives] he feels like his heart is set on playing for the United States,’ said Eddie Bonsu – Balogun’s agent Athleticism. “He is very attached to this feeling. He said: ”I feel it. This is where I feel I should be.”
Balogun, 21, who has 19 French league goals this season while on loan at Reims from Arsenal, was born in New York and raised in London. He had also been eligible to play for Nigeria through family ties.
“Not only is he an extremely talented player, he is also a good man who will add value to our national team on and off the pitch at a time when the team continues to improve,” said U.S. interim coach Anthony Hudson in a statement. “It’s clear he values his American roots and we can’t wait for him to come back and be a part of the team.”
Balogun has scored 19 French league goals this season while on loan at Reims from Arsenal
Balogun was born in New York but grew up in London, rising through the ranks for England
Balogun has been in demand after a breakout season in France.
He has battled with Kylian Mbappé to top the goalscoring charts for much of the season, although the Paris Saint-Germain star now leads with 26 goals. Balogun is tied for fifth.
USA and Hudson courted Balogun during a visit to Florida in March. The group of top players is set to be used for CONCACAF Nations League matches in Las Vegas against Mexico on June 15 and three days later against Panama or Canada.
“Fortunately for me, my first time will be in a competitive tournament, so of course the ambition is to win and there’s not much more to it,” Balogun said in the USSF interview. “I’m going to have the opportunity to come in and train with the boys, but for sure it’s just for business when we head to Vegas.”
A mainly Major League Soccer squad is scheduled for the CONCACAF Gold Cup from June 24 to July 16, when Europe-based players are on vacation and then start reporting to clubs for pre-season training.
The United States, Mexico and Canada will mainly play friendlies over the next three years before co-hosting the first 48-team men’s World Cup in 2026.