Vancouver Whitecaps' Kekuta Manneh 'excited' about U.S. citizenship

Vancouver Whitecaps winger Kekuta Manneh says he's "excited" about the progress he's made towards becoming a United States citizen and hopes to have the process completed within the next year.

Manneh, 20, was born in Bakau, Gambia, but moved to the U.S. in 2010 to pursue a career in professional soccer. If his bid to become a U.S. citizen is ultimately approved, he hopes to one day play for the national team.

"I'm about 10 months away from getting it," Manneh said to MLSsoccer.com. "It's scheduled to come out on Sept. 8, so I'm really excited. Since I've been here, my agent has been in contact with [U.S. Soccer officials], so that it will build interest.

"For me, it's an honor for [the U.S.] to be interested in me and my service. It would be a privilege to play for them."

To satisfy U.S. residency requirements during the citizenship application process, Manneh lives in Port Roberts, Washington, and drives to Vancouver at least three times a week to train with the Whitecaps.

"It is very weird," Manneh said. "It can be a long drive at times, when the traffic is bad in the morning. But it's nice. I love Point Roberts, to be honest. It's very quiet, and I get a lot more sleep there than I do in Vancouver, so that's a big plus.

"It is a bit weird coming from a different country to come and train here in Vancouver in Canada, but it's great. It's all for a good cause, so it's exciting."

Although there isn't much that the Whitecaps organization can do to help Manneh in the process, he says everyone with the club has been fully supportive of him. Additionally, the league has provided legal counsel to Manneh.

"It's a process that's been laid out that we have to go through," Manneh said. "Then the lawyers have been working with MLS. It's a MLS lawyer, so I'm getting help from him in everything that we need to do so that I can get that passport."

Although Manneh, who has played for the Gambian U20 team, has made his desire to play for the U.S. clear to his birth country, he said that hasn't stopped them from pursuing him for international duty.

"It's just that I told them I need a bit of time," Manneh said. "They always send me an invitation every game they have. My response has been the same: I need options. I need to get my passport and then decide what I need to do, if I want to play for Gambia or the US. I need to see what the right fit is for me, so that's the delay for me.

"That's why I haven't really made my decision, but it would be an honor for me to play for either of those teams. It's the national team. Everybody wants to represent it, but either of those would be great. I think it would be silly on my part to rush right now and go and play for Gambia when I can have a chance to play for the USA."