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  • Writer's pictureRichard Fleming

I've done all I can, now it's up to Berhalter ahead of 2026!

Today was quite the day. You see, today – February 13, 2024 – was the day that I technically qualified to be called up by Gregg Berhalter to the United States national team; for today was the day that this British-born fella became a dual citizen.

Now, I know that the chances of me being selected are slim, even for one of the January camps - which are occasionally handed to those with an Amazon gift card or enough Delta loyalty miles - but the fact that I am now eligible should at least have me as part of the conversation.

I understand that conversation may merely be a snigger into the cup of his hand when slipped my name on the back of a beer mat, but as I am yet to make a full international appearance for either my native England, or Scotland - for whom I qualified through my paternal grandfather – then, in my deluded mind, the door remains open, if only for me to be shown it.

The journey to be eligible for the USMNT has not been without its challenges. I was three-and-a-half when I made my first trip to the United States, spending six weeks in Melbourne Beach, Florida. I was 41 years, 11 months and 11 days before I would make the leap and move to the States, by which time some would suggest my best days were a decent distance behind me.

The fact that I am now eligible should at least have me as part of the conversation

But I arrived with experience, having been to two FIFA World Cup, five Africa Cup of Nations, a European Championship, and a FIFA Confederations Cup. While I failed to earn any minutes on the pitch, I talked a very good game as one of the voices of those prestigious competitions.

With a ball at my feet, I played alongside former Liverpool midfielder Jimmy Case, and also stared down ex-England, Tottenham, Newcastle and Marseille winger Chris Waddle. Indeed, it was I who had collected the half-clearance from a Case corner and drilled home a late equalizer when the BBC team played Hampshire County Cricket Club. My two assists, including one for Mike Bushell – who would later display his fancy footwork on the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing – helped the same BBC team defeat their ITV rivals 3-2 on a tense Tuesday night in Southampton.

I had experience playing in Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Mali, Montserrat, Egypt and in the USA. While in New Zealand I was a late signing for the Oceania Football Confederation’s lunchtime scrimmage, going up against surprise guest of the day, Christian Karembeu, a World Cup and European Championship winner with France, who a year earlier had been playing for Bastia, and listed Real Madrid, Sampdoria, Nantes, Middlesbrough and Olympiacos as his former clubs.

Did he have a North-East Hants Youth League winners’ medal? Unlikely. Was he leading scorer in the Bristow Five-a-Side Tournament when his Crawley Raiders U8s team lifted the trophy in the late 70s? Probably not. Two trophies in the English game. You get my point.

‘But what have you done lately?’ I hear you cry.

Well, three appearances in the MLS Media Cup (2004-06), which included a 25-yard volley and a goal direct from a corner. On the second of those two goals the Dr. Pepper-supping goalkeeper didn’t even have time to put his soda down, and dropped most of his burrito. Teammates included Alexi Lalas, while Brandi Chastain was among the opposition, as was a certain Marcelo Balboa.

Fast forward to when I called the USA home, and there was the time I got the deftest of headed touches to a Claudio Lopez cross, one of the few highlights of the 2016 (?) Rapids’ Media Cup, and even more recently than that I have been known to be the fetcher and carrier for Balboa on the hallowed turf of Broomfield Common. There has also been the occasional goal but, as Mr. Balboa has made clear, “that’s only because I have two or three players on me, so you have all the time in the world, buddy.”

So, there’s quite the body of work for Berhalter to consider, who now has a little over two years to track me, and possibly bring me into the reckoning in time for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, on what I can now refer to as home soil. And to Gareth Southgate of England, you had your chance …

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