Poland call up Chicago Fire's USMNT-eligible Gaga Slonina for Nations League games

Gaga Slonina, Chicago Fire FC’s dual-national homegrown goalkeeper, has been called up by Poland for the European country’s upcoming Nations League games in June.

The 18-year-old star prospect is also eligible for the US men’s national team and has featured in two senior camps for the country of his birth, namely their ​​Concacaf World Cup qualifying roster in the January/February 2022 window.

But Slonina’s kept his options open, and now is poised to join Poland for matches against Belgium, Wales and the Netherlands next month.

He’s one of five goalkeepers on the roster alongside longtime starter Wojciech Szczęsny (Juventus) and backups Łukasz Skorupski (Bologna), Bartłomiej Drągowski (Fiorentina) and Kamil Grabara (Copenhagen). All but Grabara compete in Italy’s Serie A.

Slonina’s yet to debut at the senior level for Poland or the United States, though has featured extensively for the latter’s youth squads. And it should be noted that USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter has encouraged dual-national players to experience other environments if they are interested.

The goalkeeper's breakthrough began in earnest during the 2021 MLS season’s latter stages, when Slonina took over Chicago’s starting role, then as a 17-year-old. He’s since posted nine clean sheets across 22 appearances (all starts), saving one of three penalty kicks he’s faced as well.

In mid-April, Chicago extended the 2023 contract option on Slonina’s deal. That comes amid widespread interest from European clubs, with MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Bogert reporting any deal would likely come with a loan-back portion to the Fire. English Premier League side Chelsea were among those making inquiries.

Slonina, who originally turned pro in 2019 as a 14-year-old, mainly faces goalkeeper competition in the USMNT pool from Matt Turner and Zack Steffen, who split starter duties during their successful Octagonal campaign. Turner’s departing the New England Revolution at the end of June to join EPL side Arsenal, while Steffen went from the Columbus Crew to Manchester City in 2019. Sean Johnson (NYCFC) and Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest) have been among the backups.

Both countries have qualified for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, with the USMNT earning Concacaf’s third and final automatic berth. Meanwhile, Poland beat Sweden in Europe’s second round to book a spot.

Poland’s roster also includes three other players from MLS clubs: Charlotte FC striker Karol Swiderski, Charlotte FC winger Kamil Jozwiak and New England Revolution striker Adam Buksa.