US immigration policy negatively impacts US Soccer

USA Soccer Team
Sunday, 12 January 2014 By Roger Pielke, Jr

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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About the Author

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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Comments (6)

  • MarkB

    • 24 February 2014 at 19:10
    • #

    Does the US national soccer team exist to serve the interests of individuals, or the interests of the nation? It may be that the powers that be would want to allow residents with green cards to be eligible to play, but I hardly see that as a matter of justice. The player you seem to care so much about would take away a spot on the team from a citizen. If that citizen was your son, would you be making the same argument?


  • John

    • 26 June 2014 at 19:13
    • #

    I can't believe the US (350 million people) national soccer team has five German-Americans when there are so much native potential in the states as it is. Stop recruiting foreigners and slapping them with a citizenship just so they can play for the USA. It is embarrassing and defeats the point of participating in world cup.

    P.S Notice how they didn't offer citizenship to any Mexican American players .... you should look through that border holding cell for illegal Hispanic youngster ... I bet more than one is a hell of a futbol player, course how would that reflect with the current immigration bill.


  • A.J

    • 26 June 2014 at 19:27
    • #

    The US soccer team has a long history of importing players just to win.
    The first time the US national soccer team played in the world cup, half their team was Latin-American born with US citizenship.

    That is sort of cheating when you think about it.

    FIFA is not what they used to be either ... they are more prone to corruption, just look at what they did in Brazil this year. (non profit organization that forces a nation to sell beer on the stadium).


  • Bruno

    • 26 June 2014 at 19:32
    • #

    This is the World Cup USA not the regular cup.
    quit trying to find ways around it and just pick players that are native to the USA.
    FIFA should change rule b,c,d and just stick to the nation the player was born in.


  • Manuel

    • 26 June 2014 at 19:37
    • #

    "... To better meet the spirit of what it means to be a nation of immigrants" ....

    here we go with the George Orwell corporate speech .... the USA trying to import players with citizenship just to win.

    who cares if you take that spot from a native born.... we must win, win, win no mater the cost.

    pretty lame.


  • Joe Goss

    • 23 December 2014 at 17:46
    • #

    But I would ask, based on this clause in the FIFA statutes:

    "Any person holding a permanent nationality that is not dependent on residence in a certain country is eligible to play for the representative teams of the Association of that country.

    Does a Green Card really qualify? It can be taken away if you change residence, That seems to be contrary to what FIFA is talking about.


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