DeAndre Yedlin – USMNT smile

It’s emblematic of the US men’s national team’s dramatic youth movement that at age 27, DeAndre Yedlin is the player with by far the most international caps (62) and competitive appearances (27) in the current USMNT camp that's building toward a May 30 friendly against Switzerland.

The Seattle Sounders homegrown product can also claim another traditional trapping of veteran status: Last week he joined the ownership group of USL Championship club San Diego Loyal, where former USMNT teammate Landon Donovan is head coach and executive vice president of soccer operations.

Yedlin sees this as much more than just an investment opportunity, however. The Galatasaray fullback decided to buy in when he saw Donovan and his players walked off the field halfway through a match against Phoenix Rising last fall in reaction to an alleged homophobic slur directed at Loyal midfielder and former D.C. United and Minnesota United player Collin Martin, who is gay, despite the resulting forfeit wrecking their hopes of postseason qualification.

“It was last year when they obviously made headlines with how they handled certain situations on the pitch, I think everybody knows them,” Yedlin told reporters in a Wednesday media call. “That really caught my eye – it really just opened my eyes, that wow, there's a professional club out here that gave up a spot, potentially, in the playoffs to bring awareness to these issues that we have that, in my opinion, are bigger than sport.

“I think they set a great example for the rest of the world, not just for the US, not just for soccer, but for the rest of the world in all sports. And for me, it was the club that I wanted to be a part of.”

Officially dubbed a “supporting owner,” Yedlin holds a minority stake in the second-year club and hopes to bring the unique perspective of an active player to Loyal’s operations. Having done some modeling and clothing design on the side over the years, he told ESPNFC that he plans to assist with Loyal’s apparel and merchandise. Given San Diego’s long-term ambitions of moving into the MLS expansion picture, his experience in the league likely holds appeal as well.

“I think a lot of people would look at me and think, ‘Oh, he's doing it for financial reasons and stuff like this, but I just really, really wanted to be a part of a club that would take that kind of stance on social issues,” said Yedlin, who also discussed the new chapter in his playing career he opened this year with a January transfer from the Premier League's Newcastle United to Galatasaray.

Quickly finding his feet at the Istanbul-based club, he helped the Turkish power finish joint tops in their domestic league, only falling short of their 23rd Super Lig title to crosstown rivals Besiktas on goal differential.

“Obviously you're going to a really, completely different part of the world. But I really enjoyed the aspect of it. I think that was one of the things that kind of drove me to leave England, was just to see a different culture and kind of get out of my comfort zone again,” Yedlin said.

“As far as football-wise, I was actually quite surprised by Turkey. You’ve got some very good players there, very technical players, very physical. I think the one thing that separates the Premier League – and this may be from a lot of other leagues in the world also – is just the end quality. You make a mistake and you're for sure to get punished. Not just with Turkey but with other things as well, sometimes the end quality isn't as good. So that's really the only thing that I found. But it's a great league, very competitive league, and I've had a great experience there so far.”

This call-up marks Yedlin’s first national-team opportunity since November 2019, a reward for the regular minutes he’s earned in Turkey following an on-again, off-again experience at Newcastle. Though he faces stiff competition from Sergino Dest and Reggie Cannon on the USMNT’s right flank, the 2014 World Cup veteran aims to carve out a significant role in the busy months ahead.

“That's obviously what we're in this profession for, is to play. So any time you're not playing, it can be a bit of a struggle, especially mentally,” he said. “But just being able to get back to playing, getting my form back, getting my confidence back and then finally be back as a part of this group has been huge. It's great to be here with these guys and it's amazing to see the talent that's here.”