Gedion Zelalem cleared to play for United States, will feature at FIFA Under-20 World Cup

Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem will finally have the chance to turn out for the United States after FIFA granted him clearance on Wednesday.

David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

FIFA has cleared Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem to feature for the United States and play in the upcoming Under-20 World Cup.

U.S. Soccer announced the decision on Wednesday afternoon and ended the protracted saga about Zelalem’s international fate in the process.

Zelalem needed to receive approval from FIFA to turn out for the U.S. after receiving his citizenship in December. He did not fulfill the immediate requirements of living five years in his adopted country prior to turning 18, but U.S. Soccer appealed his case to FIFA and successfully argued that Zelalem — also eligible to feature for Germany (his birthplace) and Ethiopia (his father’s native country) — should receive clearance based upon the specific circumstances in his case.

The decision paves the way for Zelalem to assume his place in the under-20 squad for the upcoming World Cup and subsequently state his claims for inclusion with the senior team in the future.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in March that he hoped to include Zelalem in his senior team at the start of his national team career, but Zelalem will instead take his bow with the under-20 side when the World Cup starts in New Zealand later this month.

U.S. under-20 coach Tab Ramos said last week he left a spot in his squad open for the blossoming playmaker in case FIFA provided the necessary clearance prior to the final roster deadline on May 15.

Ramos said he isn’t quite sure where Zelalem will fit into his squad, but he noted the clever playmaker boasts all of the tools required to make an impact during the tournament.

“That we don’t know,” Ramos said during a roundtable in New York City last week. “He’s a good player. He’s a creative player. Those are players that I like because you can’t really coach them. You just have to generally put them in positions and, hopefully, put them into position to succeed. He’s one of those players. I believe we fit him into our system in a position where he can be creative and do good things for us.”