Folarin Balogun Ready to Shine in Copa America

The British-American forward sees the tournament as his big chance to prove he can become a better player
Brazil v United States - Continental Clasico 2024
Brazil v United States - Continental Clasico 2024 / Douglas Defelice/USSF/GettyImages

Folarin Balogun is about to face the biggest challenge of his career so far. The young forward for the United States national team is ready to leave his mark in the Copa America and finally prove that he belongs among the elite. From his beginnings on the streets of London to the fervent stadiums of America, Balogun is determined to show his worth and justify the investment of the American team.

Raised in the UK, Balogun has always had a distant relationship with the Copa America. The matches, played at times that even the most devoted soccer fans find challenging, were never a constant presence in his childhood. Yet, the legendary names that shine in this tournament have always captivated him: Messi, Ronaldo, Adriano, Suarez.

Follow MLS Multiplex on X (Twitter).

Balogun's decision to join the USMNT, formalized last March, was a strategic move for both him and the team. For Balogun, it was a chance to stand out on a stage where he could be needed and valued. For the American team, it was an opportunity to add a talent capable of elevating the team to new heights. At just 22 years old, he already envisions facing giants like Vinicius Jr., Luis Diaz, and even Lionel Messi in a potential final showdown.

Adapting to the US national team hasn't been a walk in the park. He was expected to immediately take on the role of goal-scorer, but reality is always more complex. In 12 appearances, Balogun has scored only three goals, one of them memorable in the CONCACAF Nations League final against Canada. It's clear that the integration process takes time, both for the player and the team. Coach Gregg Berhalter has trusted Balogun, encouraging him to do what he does best.

Off-field camaraderie is also a significant challenge. Integrating into a tight-knit group where many players have grown up together can be intimidating. But Balogun isn't alone on this journey. He has found support from teammates with similar experiences, such as Yunus Musah and Cameron Carter-Vickers, helping him feel more comfortable and connected with the group.

His early steps in the United States, a land he mainly knew as a vacation destination, now carry a different weight. Balogun is exploring the country, getting to know its landmarks and tourist spots, and, most importantly, absorbing the culture and identity of the team he now represents.

His experience in Monaco has also brought valuable lessons. Used to counter-attacking at Reims, Balogun had to adapt to a possession-based style, a transition that reflects the adjustment needed in the USMNT.

The United States are favorites to advance from their group, which includes Bolivia, Panama, and Uruguay. However, the real challenges will come in the knockout stages, where matches against Brazil or Colombia could define the true potential of the American team.