HARRISON, NJ - JULY 10: Sinisa Ubiparipovic  of the New York Red Bulls pursues Andy Najar  of the D.C. United on July 10, 2010 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

Whether you're a USMNT fan or a DC United fan, you're likely a little scared when it comes to Andy Najar. You're scared that the teenage talent, full of potential even as he stars for a bad team in DC, might slip through your fingers. In one case, it's Honduras that might steal him away, robbing the US of a true creative talent when they are so rare. In the other it's a plethora of foreign clubs, most likely in Europe, ready to snatch up a young talent and whisk him away to their academy/reserve team in hopes he'll grow into a top flight contributor.

When it comes to the former, it's just a waiting game. Honduras holds all the cards, and though Najar claims to be solely focused on his club career, the questions are coming fast and furious. There's even some confusion over whether the teenager has been contacted by Honduras' U-20 team. Americans are filling up blog comments, message boards, and Twitter with exhortations to "Cap him now!" Hondurans are nervous. Everyone with a stake in Najar's choice is crossing their fingers as hard as they can.

For Americans, the problem is simply that Najar is not eligible for the US. At least not yet. Najar has lived in the country since coming here at 13, and is still the better part of a year away from his 18th birthday. That being the case, he cannot even apply for citizenship until he has reached his majority; the green card his family holds should means he has already met the length of residency requirement (I'm just a little fuzzy on this). Should he decide to become an American citizen, the process begins next year. If he beings that process before being capped by Honduras, the intrigue will increase considerably.

The new FIFA eligibility rules mean that Najar could appear for a Honduran youth team and still switch to the United States at a later date. This is the rule change that allowed Edgar Castillo and Jermaine Jones to become US players; both wore the colors of other nations in youth setups, but neither played in what is deemed a competitive match for the senior side. Unfortunately for the "Cap him now" crowd, Honduras could end the speculation if Najar is called up and appears for the senior team any time between now and when (and if) Najar gets American citizenship. UNCAF, the union of Central American soccer federations, will hold their semiannual tournament prior to the Gold Cup in 2011; the tournament will both crown a champion of the region and serve as qualifier for the confederation tournament later. As far as I can tell, this is the only thing on the Honduran schedule at the moment. It might be the end of the Najar speculation should he be successfully wooed by the Honduran federation between now and then.

The US won't play until the Gold Cup itself, and I'm not sure if Najar's citizenship process will have run its course by then; barring a bit of wheel greasing, my guess is it won't.

If Honduras, for whom Najar is eligible right now, presses him hard to play for the nation of his birth and any possibility of representing the US would have to wait, it's hard to imagine that time is on US Soccer's side. It's not a forgone conclusion that Najar will play for Honduras, but it's hard to imagine he'll hold out that long. He has strong connections to Honduras. It would be unfair to blame him for choosing Los Catrachos.

Word is that DC United has told Najar not to discuss his international future, apparently for fear that it would be distraction. Najar, for his part, has deflected questions about his intentions when asked. This means fans of both countries are left in the dark, left to hope.

On the club front, rumors are flying the Arsenal (yes that Arsenal) will take Najar on trial at the end of the MLS season. The name of the foreign club in question may be slightly surprising, but the interest is not. Najar is young, talented, teachable, and intelligent; it would be more notable had there not been a few rumors sooner rather than later. Unfortunately for United fans, it will be difficult for the club to hold on to Najar should he want to go. This is very much an enjoy-him-while-you-can situation, and there's not much to be done. Even calling for MLS/United to reject any bids that might result from this trial and any future interest would be ridiculous. Who would begrudge Najar the chance to go elsewhere and turn into a much bigger star than MLS could ever make him?

Not that anything is certain. Najar could very well spend another year or two in MLS should he decide it better suits his personal development. He seems to be having fun with United despite their struggles, and it's clear he is comfortable in the environment. Nevertheless, Najar moving on to bigger things seems inevitable. It's only a matter of time.

Everyone, USMNT fans and United fans alike, just keep yours fingers crossed.


Okay, so Ives got some info on that Arsenal rumor. Seems it's not true, per Najar's agent. Regardless, the points stands; if Najar continues to impress, he's not long for United and MLS.
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