U.S. Soccer’s Nations League roster includes Folarin Balogun’s first call-up

Arsenal's Folarin Balogun vies for the ball in front of other players on a pitch.
Folarin Balogun, center, switched his national team affiliation to the United States and was called up for the team’s Nations League matches this month.
(Ian Walton / Associated Press)
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A week ago B.J. Callaghan, an assistant coach with the men’s national soccer team, was packing to take his daughter from Chicago to North Carolina for a lacrosse tournament when he got a phone call telling him he was being promoted. Anthony Hudson, the team’s interim manager, was leaving for another job and Callaghan would be taking his place.

The offer was as unexpected and it was exciting: After two decades as an assistant with three college programs, in the MLS with the Philadelphia Union and with the U.S. national team, Callaghan was finally being put in charge.

“I know it sounds cliché but in professional sports a lot changes in a short amount of time. We constantly say ‘next man up’,” Callaghan said Thursday. “At this point in time, my number was called and I’m honored to have the opportunity to step up.


“The piece that in this short period of time that I’ve been preparing for is that [the] final decision rests with me.”

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The first decisions Callaghan signed off on were announced Thursday when the new coach’s roster for this month’s CONCACAF Nations League final was released. And there were few surprises with the team, a blend of experience and youth that features 13 players from last fall’s World Cup roster and 10 others who have fewer than nine international caps.

Among the latter is Folarin Balogun, a tri-national forward who played for four English youth national teams before committing to the U.S. as a senior international. Balogun, 21, scored 20 goals for Reims in France’s Ligue 1 this season, becoming the first U.S. international to score at least 20 times in a top-flight European league.

The players will begin gathering Sunday for a week of training at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson before heading to Las Vegas, where the U.S. will play Mexico in a Nations League semifinal on June 15. Panama will face Canada in the other semifinal with the winners meeting June 18 in the final. The U.S. won the first Nations League in 2021.

Callaghan, an assistant on coach Gregg Berhalter’s staff at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, is the second interim manager, after Hudson, to head the U.S. team in less than six months. Berhalter, whose four-year contract as manager expired in December, is among the candidates for the full-time manager’s job, although the position isn’t expected to be filled until later this summer.

Callaghan said he consulted with both Hudson and Berhalter in choosing his roster and speaks frequently with the former manager to assure the team operates with a sense of continuity despite the changes in the coaching staff.


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“The players are familiar with me and I’m familiar with the players,” he said. “The way we’re going to operate and the way that we’re going to run ourselves day to day, it’ll be stable. And so I think from that environment we’ll be able to have really good performances and really good preparation.”

In addition to Balogun, the roster includes attackers Christian Pulisic of Chelsea and Gio Reyna of Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner and Leeds midfielder Weston McKennie. Midfielder Alan Soñora and forward Alex Zendejas, dual nationals who play in Mexico’s Liga MX, were also called up. Both players made their USMNT debuts earlier this year.

But there are also some notable absences because of injury, among them World Cup captain Tyler Adams, defender Cameron Carter-Vickers and goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

U.S. men’s Nations League roster

Goalkeepers: Drake Callender (Inter Miami), Josh Cohen (Maccabi Haifa), Sean Johnson (Toronto FC), Matt Turner (Arsenal)

Defenders: Sergiño Dest (AC Milan), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach), Auston Trusty (Birmingham City), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

Midfielders: Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKennie (Leeds United), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Alan Soñora (FC Juárez)


Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United), Folarin Balogun (Stade Reims), Taylor Booth (Utrecht), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tim Weah (Lille), Alex Zendejas (Club América)