FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Two days after the Revolution announced that Diego Fagundez had obtained his green card, the 18-year-old spoke about his national team ambitions.
Initially, the Uruguayan-born playmaker was coy about which country he rested his allegiances with. But after he was asked to specify the national team he was speaking about, Fagundez revealed the answer that many U.S. Men’s National Team supporters had been waiting to hear.
“Yeah, I do mean the U.S. National Team,” Fagundez said with a laugh. “I do have options, but I would like to play for the U.S.”
It was a decision that many who have watched Fagundez over the past three seasons wondered whether he would ever make. After all, there were just as many -- if not, better -- reasons for the Montevideo native to choose his home country over the U.S., especially after he was called into the Uruguay U-20 camp for a pair of friendlies last October.
While that spell may have given Fagundez, who moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 5, a taste of international competition, what happened afterward may have given the teenage star a reality check. Instead of receiving another call-up, the Uruguay U-20’s moved on without him as it prepared for this year’s U-20 World Cup.
But the idea that the Revolution’s leading scorer was motivated by the snub -- perceived or real -- doesn’t appear to hold much weight.
According to Revolution general manager Michael Burns, the prospect of Fagundez applying for his green card goes back to November 2010, when the club made him the second-youngest player ever to sign in MLS.
“When Diego signed his first contract when he was 15, we talked about it briefly,” Burns said. “But at the end of the day, it needs to be a decision made by the individual player, and in Diego’s case, (with) his family, because he was a minor at the time.”
Burns said the talk about the 18-year-old obtaining his green card appeared to turn more serious in April, after he signed a multiyear extension with the Revolution.
“I think he decided once he signed his new contract, that the timing was probably right for him,” Burns said. “We support him in that endeavor, and for his sake, we’re glad it came to fruition. It’s a positive for him.”
Of course, there’s still more to do before Fagundez can don the U.S. jersey. The U.S. Soccer Federation requires that all players have full citizenship, and the wait for a person holding a green card to obtain citizenship is five years in most cases. Additionally, Fagundez must spend the bulk of that five-year process stateside, which could keep him from making a move overseas until he is 23.
“It’s a little bit (of a) process,” Fagundez said. “But however long it takes, we’re just going to have to stay where we are now and just keep going and keep waiting.”
Even though the lengthy wait likely will keep Fagundez from featuring for the U.S. in time for the 2018 World Cup, he expressed no regrets about his decision.
“It was important,” Fagundez said. “I knew that if I got it, it was going to be another step closer to playing for a national team. But I’m going to try to do everything I can so that I can try either making something work a little faster to get my citizenship or just wait and see what happens.”
For now, Fagundez is focused on helping the Revolution in their quest to reach the postseason and will wait until the season ends to give more thought to his international future. But no matter what happens, the talented teenager is thrilled that he’s cleared the first major hurdle in becoming a U.S. citizen.
“It’s been a while,” Fagundez said. “I can’t really say how long, but I’m very excited that I have (my green card) already.”