Musah bonded with Americans, made him want to switch to US

Yunuf Musah was sold on switching from England to the United States after spending time with American players during a November training camp. And having the chance to play at the 2026 World Cup co-hosted by the U.S. was part of the attraction.

“That was a big thing for me. I want to be playing at the highest level with the top players,” the 18-year-old midfielder said Wednesday in his first public comments since his decision was announced March 15. “And hopefully I’ll be involved in that.”

Musah was born in New York City on Nov. 29, 2002, while his Ghanaian mother was visiting relatives. He moved to Italy with his family when he was months old, lived in Castelfranco Veneto and played for a camp run by the club Giorgione.

Musah’s family moved to London in 2012 and he joined Arsenal’s youth academy. He helped the Gunners under-18 team reach the 2018 FA Youth Cup final and the 2018-19 Youth Premier League South championship.

Eligible to represent U.S., England, Italy and Ghana, he played for England’s under-15 team in 2016 and also appeared for England’s under-16, under-17 and under-18 teams. He was announced by England last Oct. 2 for an under-19 roster ahead of a doubleheader against Scotland but instead trained with the U.S. the following month and made his senior U.S. national team debut when he started in an exhibition at Wales on Nov. 12. He also was in the lineup against Panama four days later.

“It was hard at the beginning having so many different people trying to convince me to play for them,” he said.

Musah had knowledge of the U.S. program from Nico Estevez, an assistant coach with the U.S. team who also worked for head coach Gregg Berhalter with Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew. Estevez worked for Valencia’s academy for eight years and briefly was interim coach in 2013.

Musah bonded with American players during the fall training camp.

“It’s about making the decision that will potentially make the steps to the career you wanted,” Musah said at U.S. training camp in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. “It was a mixture of things, I think if you’re looking for specifics, I think I’m really into the project that we have of building this new team, a new identity and trying to change the view of American soccer in the world, and yeah, that really inspired me. It’s one of the things that I really wanted to be involved in.”

He didn’t make a final decision to represent the U.S. until this month.

“It was a bunch of emotions that day. It was a very happy day. The U.S. made me feel really special, really welcome,” he said. “The U.S. did a great job for me.”

Musah signed with Valencia in 2019 and made his first team debut on Sept. 13 against Levante. He scored his first goal against Getafe on Nov. 1 following a 60-yard run.

He views his ideal position as a box-to-box midfielder, but Juventus’ Weston McKennie is the first-choice there on the U.S. team. Still, there will be opportunities, especially with the delayed and compacted schedule of World Cup qualifiers that starts Sept 2, most likely at Trinidad and Tobago or El Salvador.

Musah will get to integrate himself with the U.S. team exhibitions against Jamaica on Thursday in Austria and at Northern Ireland on Sunday.

He doesn’t think FIFA should alter rules to give players a chance to switch nations more easily.

“It wouldn’t be right for the nations,” Musah said. “Usually the tournaments come every four years, every two years, and you prepare for a long time for tournaments. And I’m sure the coaches would like to know a team, to know what team they will have for the competition. and it wouldn’t be fair to them to be switching like football clubs.”

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