With dual-citizenship players on the rise, the tension-fueled recruitment battle between the United States and Mexico strengthens.
In the past couple of years, international football has seen the likes of David Ochoa, Julian Araujo and Ricardo Pepi make headlines when committing to either side. Two of the three opted to represent El Tri, cementing Mexico’s long held edge with dual-citizenship figures.
But there are several talented players still undecided. Here are the top five dual-citizenship figures to watch out for.
1. Jonathan Gomez
The Real Sociedad B full-back is on the rise as one of the most wanted dual-citizenship figures. The player was born in North Richland Hills, Texas to Mexican parents, making him eligible to feature for both nations.
The USMNT and Mexico are fighting for the 18 year-old fullback, calling him to friendlies before he makes the ultimate decision. He first debuted with the American side during their friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina on December 18, coming off the bench in the 84th minute. While many thought his involvement would cement his place on the team, he then went on to feature in Mexico’s latest exhibition match in Orlando, Florida vs. Guatemala.
He is not cap-tied to any side, and able to feature in both nation’s camps prior to committing.
2. Alex Mendez
The FC Vizela player has been on a recent high. After recovering from an injury in 2020, Mendez has worked tirelessly to reach his best form, and it’s working to gain international attention.
With talent and a dual citizenship, comes the decision to commit to a national team. It’s no secret the player has been known within USMNT circles, being voted United States Young Player of the Year in 2018. He’s featured for several youth teams, most recently joining the Under 23 camp for the American side.
But being of Mexican descent, the player has kept his options open.
3. Richie Ledezma
The up and coming midfielder is one to watch. Currently with PSV’s second-division side, Jong PSV, Ledezma has been working hard to break out. After a torn ACL, the player has returned to the pitch back and better than ever, inspiring national team questions.
Born in the United States to Mexican parents, Ledezma is free to choose which nation to represent. He’s featured for the USMNT youth teams, most recently forming a part of the Under 20 World Cup team that reached the tournament’s quarterfinals. But he hasn’t closed the door on Mexico quite yet.
The player admitted to talking with the Mexican federation after sporting director Gerardo Torrado reached out.
“He contacted me and he just asked me how I was doing,” Ledezma told SBI. “Obviously I’m not going to be rude. I’m not going to close doors, you know? So I answered back, said I was good. He was asking me how was PSV, and stuff like that. It’s good hearing from a legend, obviously.”
“Anything can happen. Obviously my door is always open to any team, but when I have to make the decision I’ll make my own decision,” Ledezma said. “It’s whatever I’m happy with. We’ll see what happens.”
4. Obed Vargas
The youngster has been a recent standout with the Seattle Sounders at only 16 years-old. He’s recorded nine appearances for the Western Conference giants, most notably featuring in the victory against Liga MX side Pumas UNAM to lift the Concacaf Champions League trophy and make history.
Born in Alaska to Mexican parents, he’s able to feature for either side. He’s featured for the United States at the Under-15 level, but admittedly grew up watching Liga MX. While he still has some time to decide, Vargas is already conflicted about choosing.
“As a kid, or when I was younger, I always wanted to play for Mexico,” Vargas said with a laugh in March 2022.
“I always grew up watching Mexico but I’ve joined the MLS academy, they’ve given me an opportunity. I’ve gone to US national team camps and they’ve really been confident in me. It’s kind of leveled out the playing field. I still don’t know. My heart is in two spaces right now.”
5. Cade Cowell
Cowell’s national team journey has recently brought up some controversy.
The 18 year-old is not new to the scene, featuring in his fourth professional season with the San Jose Earthquakes. He’s managed seven goals and eight assists in 59 overall appearances. The player has also been known to represent the USMNT in several youth levels before making his senior debut in the friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
But recently, the player teased his interest for Mexico.
"It's whoever wants me more and how I fit into their system best I guess. I haven't really gotten looks from Mexico but the United States has been great to me," he said last year.
It’s also rumored that he is currently obtaining his Mexican citizenship, alongside his brother Chance Cowell, who is currently with the Mexican Under 15 side. The Cowells are eligible through their mother’s father.
He may not be as rock solid as the USMNT though so prior.