USMNT or Mexico? Seattle Sounders midfielder Obed Vargas generates buzz in breakout season

Seattle Sounders FC are a veteran-heavy team expected to challenge for multiple trophies in 2022, making the emergence of 16-year-old midfielder Obed Vargas all the more impressive.

Vargas has featured in all five of Seattle’s games this campaign, spanning the MLS regular season and Concacaf Champions League, a rapid rise after signing a homegrown player deal this past December.

An Alaska native who’s eligible for both Concacaf rivals United States and Mexico, questions have started surfacing about which country he may represent one day. A senior international debut is likely in the distance, though Vargas said before Saturday’s marquee match vs. LA Galaxy (3:30 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes) that he’s given the choice some early thoughts.

“As a kid, or when I was younger, I always wanted to play for Mexico,” Vargas said with a laugh, realizing he’s still of high school age. “I always grew up watching Mexico but I’ve joined the MLS academy, they’ve given me an opportunity. I’ve gone to US national team camps and they’ve really been confident in me. It’s kind of leveled out the playing field. I still don’t know. My heart is in two spaces right now.”

Vargas has represented the US at the U-15 level and said he grew up watching Liga MX games, only stopping now that his professional career is taking off. With parents from Mexico, he could face a similar decision that dual-nationals like former FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi (with USMNT) and current LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo (with Mexico) have made in the past year.

Speaking after Seattle’s 3-0 steamrolling of Liga MX’s Club Leon on Wednesday in the CCL quarterfinals, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer acknowledged the high upside his midfield talent possesses, likening him to USMNT staple Cristian Roldan. This past preseason,'s Charles Boehm labeled Vargas one of the league's next breakout homegrown stars.

“I would hope some of those scouts from Leon or some of the other bigger teams in Mexico would take notice, although I don't want to lose the kid," Schmetzer said. "But certainly he belongs in the team. He has played at a level where he belongs on the field so that's credit to him. ... There's a lot of different reasons why that kid has performed well.

“We're happy to have him now and he reminds a little bit of Cristian when Cristian first came. He's got that defending, tenacity, but he can go forward and attack. I think he's going to be a tremendous player for our club, and then let's see.”

With Schmetzer hinting at transfer interest, it’s important to recall Vargas only made his MLS debut last August via an Extreme Hardship waiver, becoming the third-youngest player in league history to play in an MLS match (15 years and 351 days) during a 1-0 win at Austin FC. Vargas also featured extensively a year ago for Tacoma Defiance, Seattle’s now-MLS NEXT Pro team that allows homegrown talent like him to develop.

Now, looking like he belongs alongside the likes of Roldan, Nicolas Lodeiro and Joao Paulo, it’s clear a bright future awaits. Though this ascension has even caught Vargas by surprise.

“Coming into the season, I was hoping to just get a few minutes,” Vargas said. “I wasn’t expecting to play so much but I'm happy and I just want to keep going. That’s all I’m focusing on, keep going, keep playing at a high level and the rest will just come.”