The battle for the international allegiance of talented Mexican-American dual nationals has been raging for some time. But the identity of the latest such player to commit to one side of the border may turn even more heads than usual.
Club Tijuana midfielder Fernando Arce Jr. donned US colors for the first time last week at the tender age of 17, helping the US Under-20 national team win the NTC Invitational at StubHub Center. Working effectively in the heart of coach Tab Ramos' engine room as the young Yanks defeated Bermuda and Chile and drew Australia, Arce showed why he's rated as one of Tijuana's most highly anticipated prospects.
Arce is also the son of a Mexican national teamer.
His father and namesake – who was also his teammate at Tijuana before Fernando Sr. moved on to Chivas Guadalajara earlier this year – owns 47 caps for El Tri in addition to a distinguished track record at top Liga MX clubs.
His son was born in Chula Vista, Calif., just across the border from Tijuana, and grew up in multiple locales in Mexico thanks to Arce Sr.'s career path. But when it came time to pick which nation he would represent, Arce Jr. took a practical approach that eventually paid dividends for the US.
“From the start, I said that whoever called me first I would join that team forever,” Arce Jr. told AmericanSoccerNow.com. “The US called me first and showed a lot of interest in me so the US will be my national team.”
Arce Jr. is close to his father and says his choice has had no effect on their relationship.
“He congratulated me that the US national team had called me because being called by a national team is a great honor,” he told ASN's Brian Sciaretta. “So he told me that he was very happy. He also told me it was my decision for whom to play.
“He told me to write my own story and pick my own path and that hopefully it would be even better than his.”
Now the younger Arce will look to prove his worth to Ramos ahead of the next U-20 World Cup, set for New Zealand next summer, and earn a chance to contribute to Xolos' senior team in the Apertura campaign which just opened over the weekend.