Gedion Zelalem - US U-20
USA Today Sports

Who is Gedion Zelalem? Former wunderkind joins Sporting Kansas City

Not so many years ago, even many casual followers of the US men's national team knew who Gedion Zelalem was. 

The technically-gifted central midfielder with an impressive passing range was one of the most talked-about prospects in the country before joining Arsenal's academy when he was 16, a soccer factory that has produced the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ashley Cole and Hector Bellerin in recent years. 

There, he quickly rose from the club's U-16 team to the U-21s within a few months. He was named to Arsenal's first-team roster for a preseason trip to Asia that summer, hinting at his limitless potential. He incited headlines such as "Gedion Zelalem is Arsenal's latest teenage prodigy" and "No Longer a Secret: Gedion Zelalem Shines for Arsenal".

On Monday, he officially joined Sporting Kansas City, six years after arriving in North London. He never made a Premier League appearance for the club – so what has the 22-year-old been up to since then?

Arsenal debut and a pair of loans

Zelalem early in his Arsenal career | Action Images

After his rapid ascent from the U-16s, Zelalem hoped to make an impact for the first team in 2013-14 despite having not yet signed his first professional contract. He was named to the bench for Arsenal's opening Premier League match in August 2013 but was an unused substitute. 

Zelalem picked up an injury a month later, derailing some of his momentum. In January, though, he made his senior Arsenal debut in an FA Cup match in January 2014. He made his second appearance with the senior squad the following season. 

To further his development, Zelalem spent 2015-16 on loan with Rangers in Scotland. He made 21 appearances in the Scottish second division, helping guide the Glasgow giants to the title. He began the next season at Arsenal, though went on loan in January 2017 to VVV-Venlo, a Dutch club, where he won another second-tier title, making nine league appearances after arriving. 

Youth national team career

Zelalem was born in Germany before moving to the United States, so he began his youth national team career for the country of his birth, representing Die Mannschaft at the U-15, U-16 and U-17 levels. He was granted US citizenship in December of 2014 and picked for the US U-20 squad at the 2015 U-20 World Cup. Some of his teammates at the tournament included Paul Arriola, Zack Steffen, Matt Miazga and Kellyn Acosta

After featuring at the 2015 U-20 World Cup at the age of 18, he was still eligible to take part in the 2017 U-20 World Cup. He started the first match of the tournament, though was carried off injured after just 37 minutes with a torn ACL, which kept him out of action until last year. 

Zelalem has made 10 appearances for the U-20 national team and another five for the U-23 side, but has yet to make his debut for the senior national team. 


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