US immigration policy negatively impacts US Soccer

Published 12 January 2014 By: Roger Pielke, Jr

USA Soccer Team

Issues related to immigration and citizenship have long been debated in the United States, and are reemerging as a political issue, with calls for reform coming from both Republicans and Democrats.

President Obama says that "the US immigration system is broken ... there are 11 million people living in the shadows."1 One consequence of the broken immigration system can be seen in US soccer, where certain immigrants to the United States are deemed ineligible to represent Team USA, despite meeting FIFA criteria for eligibility. This article explains this situation and recommends several alternative ways forward to better align the intent of FIFA regulations with their implementation in a US context by US Soccer.

Consider the case of Diego Fagundez, an 18 year old player for the New England Revolution. Diego scored 13 goals in 2012-2013, making him the youngest player ever to score more than 10 goals in a MLS season.2 Faugudez has consequently received a lot of attention, and naturally questions have arisen about a possible role playing for the US national team.

But there is one big problem. Fagundez is not eligible to play for the United States because he is not a citizen, despite having lived in the United States since he was 5 years old. Born in Uruguay, Fagundez grew up playing for various youth teams in Massachusetts before entering the Revolution's youth academy, and has since expressed a desire to play at the international level.3 Fagundez is apparently not presently a top interest of Uruguay, for whom he would be eligible under FIFA rules because of his birth in that country. That level of interest could of course change, if he were to develop further as a player, while he awaits US citizenship.

 

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Roger Pielke, Jr

Roger Pielke, Jr

Roger Pielke, Jr. has been on the faculty of the University of Colorado since 2001 and is a Professor in the Environmental Studies Program and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).

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