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Flo in the States

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Ladies and gentlemen, we got him!

Sorry, I had to.

Folarin Balogun announced Tuesday via social media that he has officially filed his one-time switch to represent the United States Men’s National Team at the senior level. 

Born in Brooklyn, NY to Nigerian parents, “Flo” Balogun spent his formative years in London, signing with Arsenal at the age of eight. The Reims-via-Arsenal loanee has made appearances with the U18 US national team as well as England’s U17, U18, U20, and U21 national teams. He was also eligible to play for Nigeria, due to his kinship.

His decision to represent the States comes to the utter delight of US Soccer fans.

The twenty-one-year-old has been at or near the top of the scoring charts in France’s Ligue 1 this season for Reims — scoring 19 goals in 34 appearances, Balogun has the fifth most goals of any player in Ligue 1 currently. For players with more than 370 minutes of playtime, his 0.80 expected goals per 90 put him second to Kylian Mbappé’s .83 xG in the league. 

His loan expires at the end of his Stade de Reims season in the summer, when he will return to Arsenal for now. He is under contract for the next two years in North London, but will most likely be stuck behind Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah should he decide to stay at the club. After excelling in his first season in Ligue 1, Balogun will likely set his sights on a better opportunity and could leave on a permanent basis as early as this summer. His next club move will be ever-so-important with the 2026 World Cup looming on the horizon. Maximizing his playing time without sacrificing a move to a big club will need to be weighed carefully.

Life happens fast

After he took an unexpected trip to Orlando during the USMNT’s preparation for Nation’s League matches against Grenada and El Salvador in late March, speculation that Balogun was considering representing the USMNT went through the proverbial roof on social media. Commenters spammed a Balogun Instagram post with American flags and bald eagle emojis, doing their part to try to lure Flo to the States. Balogun even noted this had an effect on his decision to choose the US.

One can ponder how much of a role the recent hiring of sporting director Matt Crocker had in Flo’s decision to come state-ward, as Crocker was formerly the Head of Development Teams for England’s Football Association.

With top talent like Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Ollie Watkins, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and more ahead of Balogun in the English ranks, he would likely have had a suppressed role, if any, within the English camp. Not to mention, Nigeria has a young budding goal-scorer breaking out in Victor Osimhen, who appears to be hopping to a big European club in the summer. That said, Balogun’s decision to represent the USMNT has afforded him a great opportunity.

Crisis averted

Balogun potentially solves what some would refer to as a “crisis” at the striker position within the US camp. Evidenced clearly in Qatar, one of their biggest issues with the USMNT at the 2022 World Cup was their lack of quality down the middle, up top. 

Enter Balogun, who plays a versatile game for a striker. He can play as a traditional number nine, as he typically does for his club team, where his pace and strength make him a nightmare for CB’s to defend. His speed off the back shoulder of the defense sees him getting called offside at a decent clip, but this forces defenders to respect that run. 

His sheer strength down the middle can put defenders at sixes and sevens. He holds up play very well, and this alone is something that the USMNT has been starved of since Jozy Altidore, about a decade ago. Though Balogun is a much different player and is unlike any player the USMNT has ever had at its disposal. His movement off the ball has elite potential, and the xG numbers plus his highlights this season speak to that in volumes.

His blend of strength and pace makes it so he is able to create chances out of thin air. He has been compared to Arsenal and Manchester United greats Ian Wright and Andy Cole by former Arsenal “Invincible” Martin Keown. High praise to say the least.

His speed and skill on the ball make it so can also be deployed out wide as a winger. Though he will likely find himself playing as a traditional number nine for the USMNT, or in a two-striker formation. 

It’s happening

Flo has already alluded on social media that he could be included in the USMNT senior side as early as June 15, as the US takes on Mexico in the Nations League semi-final. Playing this soon will allow him to get his feet wet with his teammates sooner rather than later as they try to build chemistry leading into the summer’s Gold Cup. 

In the bigger picture, the World Cup is on North American soil just over three years from now. Getting opportunities to play with his new teammates so soon will pay dividends down the road when the lights are even brighter.

With his sheer instinct for goal, the USMNT may finally have their missing piece. For now, it is time to be excited about this move and the dynamic capabilities it brings to the USMNT going forward.







  1. Let’s hope he finds spot on a better team with significant playing time because it seems unlikely he’d get it with Arsenal. Same can be said for a lot of the USMNT stalwarts whose futures appear to be up in the air — Pulisic, Adams and Aaronson all could be on the move (McKennie is rumored to be headed to Brighton, which should be a good fit). EAger to see the kid play.

  2. santo bevacqua says:

    This is good to explore, and although i do not know Balogun very well, consideration to add him to the national team will certainly improve the possibility of USA higher FIFA ranking in the world stage of football. The world Cup is coming we need the best.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    This guy has world class potential.
    Enough said.

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