US men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter responds to report of Ayo Akinola's potential Canada switch

Ayo Akinola - Toronto FC - March 17, 2019

The international future of Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola has been the subject of much speculation this year, and for now fans for both countries are still playing the waiting game.

The 20-year-old striker burst onto the scene with five goals at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, and is one of the most intriguing young prospects in the league. But as of yet, Akinola hasn't decided which country he's going to choose to represent at the senior level, as he's eligible to play for both the US and Canada, as well as Nigeria.

The countries have been making their case, with OneSoccer's Gareth Wheeler reporting on Thursday that Canada head coach John Herdman has told him that he believes Akinola is leaning towards Canada. 

"Herdman tells me there's been positive conversations between the Canada camp and Akinola's camp and there are positive signs that he will in fact join up with Canada," Wheeler said. "Now, right now it's still at the hope stage, nothing's in cement, at least that's what I'm understanding. But there have been conversations and Akinola has been asked to join up with the Canadian men's national team for games previous to this. So Herdman has had a long-standing interesting in the player, there's been dialogue, there's been a relationship built over the last couple years and it seems like Akinola is interested in representing Canada above the United States.

"Canada, I can say, is very optimistic on Akinola committing to the Canadian men's national team."

With that in mind, Extratime's David Gass took the opportunity to ask US men's national team head coach Gregg Berhlater in an interview on the latest episode on Thursday. Berhalter said he's had conversations with Akinola and said he's still hopeful that he'll stay with the Yanks, where he was a regular on the youth circuit. That history, Berhalter said, is something he's hoping will work in the USMNT's favor when it comes to his decision on his future.

"I've spoken to Ayo a number of times and, again, for us it's about creating an environment that players want to be in," Berhalter said. "Hopefully we show them that, hopefully we get the opportunity to show them that. He's been in our youth programs, he was a big part of the Under-20 program and the Under-17s. So he's a guy that we consider part of our program, if he were to change it would be a disappointment because he has been such a large part of our youth programs. But we want the opportunity to prove we have a great environment for him to continue to develop, hopefully we get that."