Live Update: Mexico over USMNT: Rising LA Galaxy star Julian Araujo switches national team allegiances

LA Galaxy right back Julian Araujo has confirmed that he has officially switched his international allegiance from the United States to Mexico, stating that his heart lies with El Tri.

The 20-year-old, who made one appearance with the U.S. men’s national team and represented the Stars and Stripes throughout his youth career, holds dual citizenship with both nations. He was cleared by world governing body FIFA to make the one-time switch.

He reportedly turned down a place with the USA’s 2021 Gold Cup squad this summer to avoid becoming cap-tied to his home country, and now the California native has revealed that he will play for El Tri.

MORE: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying schedule

“The best part of being Mexican American is that I carry two flags. It is one of the things about myself that brings me great pride. I’m proud to be a Mexican American and being raised in a Mexican American household is a privilege for which I am forever grateful.

“Growing up watching the Mexican national team in the World Cup was a unifying moment for my family. Watching them inspired me to pursue a dream of playing professional soccer.

“My heart is with Mexico. I’m grateful for every opportunity that U.S. soccer provided me to help me grow as a soccer player and now I am excited to continue my international career with Mexico.

“Coming from a family of farmworkers, I was instilled with the values of hard work, dedication and resilience. Thanks to the sacrifices that my family and I have put in on and off the pitch, I have the confidence to make this decision today.

“I hope to contribute to this sport for years to come and inspire the next generation of athletes on both sides of the border. Si se puede.”

MORE: USMNT’s top striker option is also Mexican-American

Araujo completes international switch

Born and raised in Lompoc, Calif., Araujo’s future on the international stage has long been the subject of intense speculation given his freedom to represent either the USA or Mexico.

He accepted the invitation to represent the USMNT at the youth level and was a member of the 2019 Under-20 World Cup squad that reached the quarterfinals, shortly after the Galaxy signed him out of its academy in March 2019.

But having won his first cap against El Salvador for the senior side in December 2020, he had resisted further call-ups over a reluctance to cross the cap threshold that would deny a potential swap.

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter revealed that Araujo declined the Gold Cup call-up because he wasn’t ready to commit to the U.S. national team given his status as a dual national and the option of playing for Mexico still a possibility. An appearance in an official competition like the Gold Cup would have tied him to the USMNT.

“It’s a case of him being a dual national and not fully being ready to commit to the team. He knew that the Gold Cup would lock him in permanently and he wasn’t ready to make that step,” Berhalter told media in July. “I don’t want to speak for him, but I imagine when he looks at the depth of the right back position he sees a logjam there. And he doesn’t maybe fully see his pathway to being a starter at the next World Cup. What I can tell you is that we really value Julian and we think he’s an oustanding player. We think he can make a run at being a starter on this team.”

MORE: Three players who need to step up for USMNT in October

Araujo was facing competition with several USMNT player who have seen time at right back including Reggie Cannon, Sergino Dest, DeAndre Yedline, Shaq Moore and Bryan Reynolds.

Even with Berhalter’s words, Araujo opted for Mexico where his playing chances should be better. Tigres 30-year-old right back Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez and Club America’s 23-year-old Jorge Sanchez get the bulk of the time for El Tri and Mexico has had to use 33-year-old center back Julio Cesar Dominguez and left back Gerardo Arteaga for right back fill-in duty this year.

With his move only just approved by FIFA, the switch comes too late for him to make El Tri’s latest squad for October’s World Cup qualifiers. That doesn’t mean that Mexico didn’t celebrate his pledge of allegiance:

Araujo, who’s a regular for the LA Galaxy and has started 27 games, may be in the mix for November’s squad as Mexico continues to build towards the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s side leads the third round of CONCACAF qualification after three games, and are unbeaten in their qualifying campaign to date.

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