USMNT

Who is Folarin Balogun? Meet the USMNT's Marquee Striker Commit

The 21-year-old soccer star will play for the United States in international competitions

Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

The United States men’s national team has a new No. 9.

Folarin Balogun committed to the USMNT on Tuesday.

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Balogun was also eligible for a few other notable countries, but the young sensation is now with the Stars and Stripes.

Just how important is Balogun’s commitment to the program? Very, to put it frankly. Here’s everything to know about the United States’ newest forward:

What position does Folarin Balogun play?

Balogun has played as a forward throughout his youth career leading up to where he is now as a No. 9, a 5-foot-10 clinical striker with a diverse skill set.

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Where does Folarin Balogun play?

Balogun is currently with Stade de Reims of Ligue 1, on loan from the English Premier League’s Arsenal. His youth career at the club level started with Arsenal in 2008. His first senior appearance with the Gunners came in 2020 (two in total).

How old is Folarin Balogun?

Balogun currently is 21 years old. He was born on July 3, 2001.

Where is Folarin Balogun from?

Balogun was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

Why did Folarin Balogun choose the USMNT?

Balogun was also eligible to represent England and Nigeria due to familial roots, but he chose the U.S. 

At the international level, he started with the England U17 team in 2018 before playing four games for the United States U18 team the same year. He then reverted to England and worked his way up the youth teams.

Balogun had been called up by the England U21 team for this break, but since he had yet to log a cap with the senior side, he was eligible to swap to the USMNT. 

There could be multiple reasons why Balogun committed to the U.S., but perhaps guaranteed gametime is the main one. England already has Harry Kane from Tottenham leading the line, whereas Nigeria have rising star Victor Osimhen from Napoli. The U.S. does not have such a profile at the position.

Why is Folarin Balogun’s commitment to the USMNT important?

In Balogun’s first season at a top-five league, he’s already scored 19 goals in 34 appearances. He’s tied for fifth in the league, notably behind PSG’s Kylian Mbappe (France) and Lille’s Jonathan David (Canada).

Reims has also scored 42 goals total in the league and sit in 11th place, so Balogun has accounted for nearly half of the team’s goals. For context, Balogun is in the 93rd percentile among forwards in the top-five leagues (England, Italy, France, Spain, Germany) in non-penalty expected goals, according to Football Reference. That’s simply elite, especially for his age.

When factoring in the No. 9 woes the USMNT have had for years – and as recently evident in the 2022 FIFA World Cup when they mustered three goals in four games – Balogun is bringing a versatile arsenal to the table up top alongside a number of young players who are boosting the team’s status globally. 

Not only has he shown scoring prowess in a major league, Balogun also can hold up play, carry the ball into dangerous zones and make well-timed runs behind the defense, among other tools. Polishing his overall passing game would elevate him further, but the foundations are there for a complete striker profile. 

For a potential starting lineup if everyone is healthy, the U.S. could run its 4-3-3 of (age): LW Christian Pulisic (24), CF Folarin Balogun (21), RW Tim Weah (23); CM Yunus Musah (20), CM Weston McKennie (24), CDM Tyler Adams (24); LB Antonee Robinson (25), CB Chris Richards (22), CB Miles Robinson (26), RB Sergino Dest (22); GK Matt Turner (28).

And that’s before factoring in CAM Gio Reyna (20), CM Brenden Aaronson (22), RB Joe Scally (20), GK Gabriel Slonina (18), LB John Tolkin (20), RW Alejandro Zendejas (25) and CM Gianluca Busio (20), among others.

There could be fun times ahead for the USMNT.

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