Gedion Zelalem Should Play for USMNT U-20’s First


Early Tuesday morning, Twitter went crazy when Steven Goff reported that Gedion Zelalem had completed the process to become an US Citizen. Then fans were wondering when Zelalem could be included in the USMNT game plan and when his first call-up could come. Many said the 2015 Gold Cup is a good time to include Zelalem and I don’t disagree. However, there’s a better first opportunity for US Soccer and Zelalem and that’s the USMNT U-20 squad.

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The U-20 squad will allow him to develop further. Zelalem doesn’t turn 18 until January 26th, so he’s eligible to be on the U-20 team for the near future. Playing on the U-20 team will make sure that the USMNT technical team, including Jurgen Klinsmann, can get a look at Zelalem and see his potential. It’s great that Zelalem has chosen US over Germany and Ethiopa, but the hype around Zelalem shouldn’t lead to a rushed decision that aren’t good for neither himself or the program as a whole.

The Zelalem hype is similar to the hype around Freddy Adu when he signed his first MLS contract. He was going to be the face of MLS and US Soccer, but guess what that didn’t happen. Landon Donovan arguably became the face of both during his soccer career. Adu’s over-hype led to him getting a big head. His cocky attitude led to him not being on teams very long. Since 2004, Adu has spent time on 10 club teams. His last contract only lasted for six months, was not renewed mutually, and he is now looking for his next home.

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  • US Soccer and fans alike should learn from the past. The last thing that needs to happen is Zelalem becoming the next Freddy Adu. It appears that the hype isn’t as much and no one is labeling him the face of US Soccer. Yes, Zelalem has the potential, but he needs to prove it. The USMNT U-20 provides an avenue for him to do just that and develop his skills at the same time. The potential is there for him to succeed, but he may not pan out and it would be detrimental for people to overhype his skill.

    In addition to the USMNT U-20 team, the 2016 Olympics and possibly down the road the 2018 World Cup are competitions where Zelalem could show. It wouldn’t be shocking for Zelalem to be apart of the 2015 Gold Cup roster. However, he should spend time with the U-20 team ahead of that competition and go from there. At this point, there is no need to rush Zelalem’s inclusion into the USMNT Senior Team. US Soccer should be patient and take their time developing Zelalem, so that it is done the right way and he can be given a fair chance to showcase and hone his skills.

    Next: Gedion Zelalem Looks Set For USMNT Future