US SoccerUS Soccer

Bocanegra Awarded Work Permit, Set to Join Fulham in the EPL

U.S. international defender Carlos Bocanegra has been granted a work permit by England's Home Office, clearing the way for him to sign with Fulham of the English Premier League.

"It's been a long road and it's finally coming to an end," said Bocanegra. "There's been a lot of waiting and hoping, and now I'm just relieved that I know where I'm going.  The English Premier League has been my favorite to watch since I was in high school.  Fulham is a great club, and [Manager] Chris Coleman seems like a great guy.  I'm confident that I can compete at this level, and I think it's going to be a great challenge."

The 24-year old had his finest year of his career with the MNT in 2003, earning Chevrolet Man of the Match honors three times as he became the first U.S. defender since 1994 to score four goals in one year. Getting his first international goal against Canada on Jan. 18 in Ft. Lauderdale, he went on to score the USA's lone goal against Brazil in the 2-1 semifinal loss in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. On the domestic front, he anchored the Chicago Fire backline to their third appearance in the MLS Cup final in five years.

Bocanegra, a two-time MLS Defender of the Year, already has collected four trophies in his young career, including two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles.  And he knows that his journey to England couldn't have begun without the road traveled through MLS.

"MLS has been a huge part of my development as a player," said Bocanegra, who for his career has 20 caps and 4 goals. "I couldn't have achieved the level of success with the U.S. National team without my years with the Chicago Fire.  I'm going to miss my teammates."

While he was exploring opportunities from clubs in several countries, Bocanegra thinks the move overseas will be made a lot easier by heading to England.

"London is a pretty sweet place. The British culture is very similar to the U.S., so it should be an easy transition."

And like another young U.S. international who just made the jump to England - Tim Howard - Bocanegra will be fortunate to have an experienced U.S. veteran living right around the corner in Tottenham Spurs goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

"I'm sure I'll be talking to him," Bocangra said of his teammate during the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup. "Kasey has always been very cool with me, willing to talk about anything whenever I've needed advice.  And he sent the best Christmas card I have ever seen."

Bocanegra will become the sixth U.S. international currently competing in England's top division, joining U.S. captain Claudio Reyna, Brad Friedel, Howard, Keller and Jovan Kirovski.  Fulham, the former club of midfielder Eddie Lewis, currently sit seventh in the the EPL table.