TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Transfer
Sporting Kansas City announced on Monday that US youth international Gedion Zelalem has joined the club via a transfer from English Premier League side Arsenal FC, signing a contract for the 2019 MLS season with club options for 2020 and 2021.
A dual citizen of Germany and the United States, Zelalem arrives in Kansas City after a six-year stint in Arsenal’s system after moving from Washington, D.C. to London to join the Gunners’ academy in 2013. A deep-lying midfielder with playmaking vision, the 22-year-old has represented the US at the Under-20 and U-23 levels after playing in Germany’s youth national team system in his early teens.
“Gedion is a talented player and we are excited to welcome him to the club,” Sporting manager and sporting director Peter Vermes said in a statement. “We look forward to his integration into the squad as the team competes in multiple competitions throughout the season.”
Born in Berlin, Zelalem moved to the US with his father in 2006 after three years in the Hertha Berlin academy. He played for multiple academy teams in the D.C. area and became one of the most heralded youth prospects in the country, starring for Olney Rangers from 2011-2013 alongside future MLSers like Jeremy Ebobisse, Carter Manley and Chase Gasper.
After joining Arsenal’s vaunted academy at age 16, Zelalem rose from the U-16s to the U-21s in his first year with the Gunners and made his first-team debut as a substitute in Arsenal’s 4-0 FA Cup victory over Coventry City on Jan. 24, 2014. The following December, Zelalem earned his UEFA Champions League debut in a 4-1 away win against Turkish giants Galatasaray.
Arsenal loaned Zelalem out twice, first to Scotland’s Rangers FC for the 2015-16 season and then to Dutch club VVV Venlo a year later. In both cases he helped the team earn promotion from the second division to the top flight. A serious knee injury suffered in US duty during the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea sidetracked his progress, however, and he has yet to make a first-team appearance at club level since then.
Zelalem most recently competed for the Arsenal U-23s, returning from an injury last November and scoring in a 2-2 draw against the Brighton & Hove Albion U-23s on Jan. 7. He played his final game for the U-23s in a 4-0 demolition of archrivals Tottenham on Feb. 15.