VANCOUVER, B.C. – After a period of doubt, the Vancouver Whitecaps received confirmation on Friday that FIFA has cleared 17-year-old striker Omar Salgado to play for the team, effective immediately.
A FIFA rule that takes exception to youth players transferring their registrations across national federations had initially prevented Salgado from playing until his 18th birthday on Sept. 10. The first-overall pick of the 2011 SuperDraft was previously registered in Mexico, where he played for the Chivas de Guadalajara youth team.
“The rule was initially set up to prevent underage guys from going to situations [in foreign countries] where they didn’t make it and were just left out in the cold,” Whitecaps director of soccer Tom Soehn said. “In our scenario, the United States and Canada are all part of the same league, and it’s really a benefit to Omar to be playing. I think in this case the right decision was made.”
Soehn insists that the plan for Salgado’s development remains the same as it was when they drafted him.
“I don’t know that it will change our philosophy because our philosophy has always been to work him in slow,” said Soehn. “But I think it’s important for Omar’s psyche to know that he can play week in and week out and he could provide some quality minutes for us.”
While the club is ecstatic to be able to play the 6-foot-4 striker, the eligibility of the youngster may have been a non-issue anyhow. Salgado is presently in camp with the US U-20s as they prepare to play in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Guatemala, and he likely won’t be back with the Whitecaps until after April 10.
If the US qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia this summer, Salgado could be away for most of August.
Nevertheless, the young prospect is excited to make his Whitecaps debut, whenever that may be.
“When the time comes,” Salgado said. “I’ll be ready.”