The Dual National Situation

Let’s talk about Dual Nationals. With this November Camp roster having several un-caped dual nationals and December camp having more, this conversation has come up once again. As with most USMNT fans, I believe it is an important one. There are many elements to the dual national question, so let’s break it down. 

The USMNT is becoming a very attractive team to play for. The young talent coming up at big name academies and playing at some of the world’s largest clubs is a massive draw. The willingness to give youth players a chance shows dual nationals that they will have a place in the team. For some the opportunity to play with the USMNT may come up before the opportunity to play for their other country/contries because of our willingness to give youth a chance.

USMNT Recruitment

There are several people responsible for dual national recruitment. They are all integral to the process and each does something a little different. To successfully recruit, it is important that everyone is on the same page and working together. While each group has certain tasks in their job description, in reality, different people may do different things for each player. The importing thing is that someone is covering all the bases with each player.

Youth National Team

The youth national teams are an excellent way to bring in promising dual nationals and start integrating them into the program. It shows kids from a young age that they have promise and are valued in our program. Unfortunately, the work of the youth national team coaches can often be overlooked, but it is extremely important and makes a massive difference in the end.

“The USMNT helped me when it didn’t go well, and I’m thankful for that. They helped me through hard times, and if they hadn’t given me a chance, maybe I wouldn’t be here now…maybe I’d never have reached this level.”

Sergiño Dest on Choosing the USMNT

Gregg Berhalter and USMNT Coaching Staff

The senior USMNT coaching staff is integral in the recruitment of dual nationals, since after all these are the people the player will be playing under. Therefore, they must communicate the desire to have the player. The staff will explain their plan for him and how he fits into the team set-up. It is also important that they make the players feel welcome and a part of the team. Once that is done, the final decision is down to the player.

Earnie Stewart and Brian McBride

As overseers of the whole men’s program, Stewart and McBride have a vital role in the recruitment and retention of dual nationals. They are tasked with identifying potential players that are not currently in the US set-up. They are also responsible for ensuring the player that the US is watching and connecting the player and his family. 

Outside Influences

Choosing a national team is a very personal decision. There are a lot of factors that influence a player’s ultimate decision. These influences are often out of the control of US Soccer. Despite that, it is important to understand them. 

A player’s friends and teammates can have great influence over a player. If a player is at a club with a large number of internationals for one of his nationalities, they can help recruit the player on a daily basis. It means he already knows others on that team when he is called up. The club he is at can also try to encourage the player to select one team over another.

Experiences had with his other national team also influence a player. If a player has a bad experience with one of his other national teams, that can make him more likely to play for the USMNT. Similarly if a player has a bad experience with the USMNT, it can make him more likely to switch. 

“It was good, but I wasn’t comfortable there. I just didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t feel like one of them, you know? The facilities were great, the coaches were great, but I didn’t feel comfortable.”

Uly Llanez on his time with the Mexico Youth National Team

The most important external factor though, is if the player feels American. If the player does not feel like an American and does not really want to play for the USMNT, then he will not. A dual-national needs to want to be apart of the program and represent the USA. If he does not, then the USMNT is not his team. 

The Rules for Dual National Players

FIFA sets the rules for national team eligibility. The rules can be found in the FIFA Statutes. For the USMNT, there are three key clauses. They relate to provisional cap-ties, one-time switched, and cap-ties. Understanding the rules is crucial to understanding the dual national conversation.

Provisional Cap-Tie

When a player plays in an official youth tournament, they are provisionally cap-tied. Once a player is provisionally cap-tied he is only eligible for nations that he was eligible for at the time of his provisional cap-tie. He can still switch nations, however, he must file a one-time switch to do so. A provisionally cap-tied player can also still accept call-ups to other nations he remains eligible for, but he cannot play until a one-time switch is approved.

For the USMNT, this is important information to know. It can help filter through the dual national pool to see who is still available to represent the US. On the other side it can also narrow down who is now only able to represent the USMNT. 

One-time Switch

Filing a one-time switch, officially a change of association, enables a player to change his national team. This can only be done once. After it is approved, it can not be undone. As a result, it is a very serious decision. Players typically take some time and put in a lot of thought before filing.  

“He has not played a match (either in full or in part) in an official competition at “A” international level for his current Association, and at the time of his first full or partial appearance in an international match in an official competition for his current Association, he already had the nationality of the representative team for which he wishes to play”

Conditions to file a one-time switch, Article 18.1.a

Once a player decides to file for the switch, there is paperwork that must be completed and sent to FIFA. The Players’ Status Committee then reviews the paperwork and issues a decision on the switch. The player is ineligible to play for any nation while waiting on a decision. If the switch is approved, the player is immediately tied to his new nation. If the request is denied, the player remains eligible for his original nation. 


The most straightforward of the rules is the cap-tie. A player becomes permanently cap-tied after appearing in an official senior or “A” international competition. There is no way to un-do or switch nationalities after a player is cap-tied. 

There have been some discussions recently about adjusting the cap-tie rules. These adjustments are based on preventing predatory cap-ties. The proposed rule changes would allow a player to switch nationalities if he played fewer than 3 times, all before his 21st birthday, after 3 years.

Avoiding potentially predatory cap-ties when discussing USMNT dual nationals is extremely important. If the US were to cap-tie a player as a teenager, then his development stagnates, he could fall out of the US pool. However, he may have remained in the pool for his other national team/s. Getting top players cap-tied is extremely important, but it can also be a dangerous game. It is important to give young dual nationals some time to make sure they are confident in their decision before proceeding with a cap-tieing match. 

The Role of Dual Nationals

Dual Nationals are a massive part of the USMNT and America. They are extremely important to the team and nation. The USMNT features many players with multiple nationalities. All are extremely valuable. These players must be recruited into the set-up. The USMNT needs to have a plan for them and communicate it.

While the recruitment and integration of dual nationals is important, it is also important to not overlook single nationals. A dual national player should not be given a spot simply because he is a dual national. He needs to earn his place. It is delicate balance of ensuring the player feels valued and not favoring the player to get him to commit to the USMNT. 

Navigating the integration and recruitment of dual nationals will always be a hot topic to discuss. There will always be someone left off or leaving the USMNT. The important thing to remember is that every player has very personal reasons for selecting his national team. A player chosing to play for someone else, does not automatically mean something went wrong. What matters is that every effort was made to show he has a place on the USMNT.