Jesus Ferreira receives FIFA waiver for USMNT just in time to face Costa Rica

Jesus Ferreira

CARSON, Calif. — The news arrived at an ungodly hour, and Jesus Ferreira missed it. FIFA on Friday had granted US Soccer a waiver that allowed the 19-year-old FC Dallas forward to play with the national team, just in time for Saturday afternoon's US national team friendly against Costa Rica (3:55 pm ET | ESPNews, UniMas, TUDN).

“[My agent] texted me about 7,” he said before the Americans' training session Friday morning, their final practice of the nearly monthlong January camp. “I usually don't wake up at 7, so I didn't see it.”

He soon caught wind, and it was time for celebration. The Colombian-born son of 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira, who has lived in Texas since his father signed with Dallas in February 2009, would finally realize a dream.

“I'm excited,” he told reporters. “I've been working many years for this opportunity, to represent a country. It's been a long progress, a lot of paperwork, but it's finally done. Excited to go to work.”

US manager Gregg Berhalter told reporters Ferreira will start the match at Dignity Health Sports Park. Ferreira's first call was to his mother, Yudelmira, who made arrangements to fly from Dallas to Los Angeles in time for the game.

“I wanted her to be here ...,” Ferreira said. “She was there when I debuted with Dallas, scored my first goal, so it's going to be an exciting moment for her to be out there and see me represent a country.

David Ferreira, now 40, scored 26 goals and assisted 42 more in 117 regular-season and playoff games with Dallas from 2009 through 2015, but will miss the occasion because he's still playing for hometown club Union Magdalena in Santa Marta, Colombia.

“Now I get to do what I like,” said Ferreira, who received US citizenship in mid-December. “Before I had coaches telling me, 'Yeah, I want to call you in, I want you to come play,' but I couldn't. I could go and see my teammates perform. I always wanted to play against other countries, represent a country, and now that everything's done, all the paperwork is done, I can finally do that.”

US Soccer had applied for a waiver to the FIFA rule that requires naturalized citizens to live in their adopted countries for five years after their 18th birthdays, a means to stop federations from poaching talented players from elsewhere — Brazil, mostly — for fast upgrades to their national teams.

FIFA was provided voluminous paperwork to prove that Ferreira had grown up in the United States, where he's lived since was 8, but there was no timeline on when a decision would be rendered nor any certainty that Ferreira's application would be approved. FIFA previously had approved German-born Gedion Zelalem's waiver but denied Gambian-born midfielder Kekuta Manneh's application.

Ferreira, who can play up top or as a withdrawn forward, enjoyed a breakout campaign last season, scoring a team-best eight goals with six assists in 33 games, 29 of them starts. After making his way from the academy through the first team, Dallas in December signed Ferreira to a four-year deal utilizing Targeted Allocation Money.

Internationally, he's previously been in camp with the US U-17 and U-20 national teams but unable to play. Berhalter is excited to have him in his group, for real.

“I think he's doing a great job,” the US coach said Thursday. “We see him as a No. 9, a No. 9 that can drop down and give you an advantage centrally in the midfield but then still be able to finish off plays. He's got excellent finishing, puts a lot of his shots on goal, challenged the goalkeeper — we noticed that. His accuracy is excellent. And he's got a nose for goals, and I think that's a quality that you welcome in your team.”

Jesus Ferreira had hoped to play for Colombia like his father, who made his international debut at 21 and won 33 caps while playing in three Copa Américas, including Los Cafeteros' 2001 triumph. But said he's never received any interest from that country's national program, while the US had.

"They've been looking at me since my academy days, and that's what's important. That's what helped me decide," Ferreira said. “I'd rather be with someone that wants me, that's shown interest for a while ... .

“The US has shown me everything. I went to elementary school here till I graduated [from high school]. My family lives here. I started playing soccer here — like, with a team — so yeah, I call this home.”