Atlanta's Hector Villalba confirms effort to switch eligibility to Paraguay

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Amid speculation about his international career, Atlanta United winger Hector Villalba confirmed Wednesday that he is in the process of switching national teams.

In May, a report from Paraguay suggested that the Argentine-born Villalba was in the process of switching to the Paraguayan national team because his father was born in Paraguay.

Villalba has been injured for weeks, and hadn’t spoken about the topic since the report.

And after Atlanta’s 2-0 win over Columbus Crew SC Wednesday, he answered bluntly when asked if the reports were true.

“Yes, I’m trying to do the paperwork,” he said through a team translator.

The Atlanta attacker has never been capped for Argentina, making him eligible for the switch. And while reports suggested a link to his father, Villalba said he wanted to set the record straight that it was his mother who inspired him to make the switch.

“I’m doing it for my mom,” he said. “A lot of people have talked about it saying that because my dad is Paraguayan, that’s why I’m doing it. But I don’t know my dad, so I just wanted to clear up that I’m doing it for my mom.”

Villalba grew up in the 1-11-14 village of Buenos Aires, an area known for its immigrant population.

There, he said, he was well aware of his Paraguayan roots, and learned to speak Guarani, Paraguay's official language alongside Spanish.

“There’s a lot of Paraguayans there,” he said. “They speak Guarani, I speak Guarani. That’s why I made the decision, and I’m happy about it.”

And with the 2026 FIFA World Cup on everyone’s minds, the 23-year-old said he sees both opportunity for himself and for MLS as a league, thanks to both his switch and the announcement of the North American World Cup.

“I’m playing in MLS because I see every day that this league is growing – season after season, year after year,” he said.