While Aron Johannsson -- the Alabama-born, Denmark-based, Icelandic-American forward profiled in the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine -- won't rule out the possibility of representing the U.S., a closer look at his situation casts doubt on the likelihood that he'll ever play for the Yanks.
The recruiting call he received from Jurgen Klinsmann this fall did give the 22-year-old Aarhus star something to think about -- Johannsson says the U.S. boss and ex-Germany striker "can probably help me in my career"-- but it's clear that Johannsson considers himself Icelandic first.
That's not to say Johannsson isn't proud of his American roots. His family still celebrates Thanksgiving, and he calls the 10 months he spent at Florida's IMG academy as a teenager in 2007-08 "the best year of my life."
Yet he was fully prepared to forfeit his U.S. eligibility last month, after speaking to Klinsmann, by stepping on the field for Iceland for cap-tying qualifiers against Albania and Switzerland. A groin injury eventually forced him to withdraw from the squad.
"If he had been fit, he would not have rejected [the chance] to play," said his agent, Magnus Agnar Magnusson.
The youngster has already appeared in official games for the Nordic country's under-21 squad, which means he'd be required to petition FIFA to switch allegiances to play for the Yanks.
Not only does Johannsson, the top scorer in the Danish Superliga, have no immediate plans to file such a request, both he and Magnusson were unaware that initiating the process -- which would prevent him from ever playing for Iceland again -- was even required.
Then there's this question to consider: How much would Johannsson help the U.S.?
The 6-foot-1 striker is a legitimate talent, but Klinsmann offered the youngster no guarantee of a call-up when the two spoke this fall.
He's far from a finished product, though. Lighting up the Danish League is one thing, but being a consistent threat at the international level is quite another. Aarhus coach Peter Sorensen says Johannsson's strength and quickness have room to improve, and notes that he's still gaining experience at the professional level.
Still, plenty see Johannsson's potential: Arsenal has reportedly scouted him, and while Magnusson hasn't had heard from the Gunners, he says he's been contacted by clubs in the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A, as well as by teams in smaller leagues in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Johannsson is intelligent on and off the ball, and his timing in the box is strong. He knows where to be and has the skill to finish clinically.
By reaching out personally, Klinsmann showed that the U.S program also has significant interest. But one still wouldn't expect the U.S. boss to throw Johannsson straight into World Cup qualifying matches in 2013. If he makes himself available, Johannsson's opportunity would likely come at next summer's Gold Cup, a key proving ground one year out from the 2014 World Cup.
Even if he performed well, competition for spots in Brazil will be fierce. The U.S. forward pool is as deep as it's ever been; Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd, Herculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson and Juan Agudelo are expected to vie for spots on the '14 roster. MLS goal king Chris Wondolowski could also work his way into the mix. And midfielder Clint Dempsey, who led the Yanks with six goals in 2012, is perhaps the Yanks' best option up top.
So while playing for the U.S. would be a better career move, switching to the American program is a risky proposition for Johannsson. He won't play in a World Cup for Iceland, but he might never play in one for the U.S., either.