Folarin Balogun came home in June, when the dual-national and former England youth player had his one-time change of association request approved by FIFA and declared his intentions to represent the United States at the international level. The highly-touted forward and Arsenal academy product made his presence felt in the USMNT attack immediately upon receiving his first call-up, which was one of several moments in 2023 that helped him earn a nomination for U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year.
READ MORE: 2023 Male Player of the Year Nominees
Fans will have the opportunity to vote on select Player of the Year Awards, with the fan vote comprising 15% of the total vote. Nominees for all awards are selected by U.S. Soccer’s technical staff. Voting for the awards starts Monday, Dec. 11 and closes on Monday, Dec. 18. The winners will be announced in the weeks that follow.
Here are some of the highlight’s from Balogun’s busy calendar year:
- Balogun made his USMNT debut in the team’s 3-0 win over Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals on June 16. Balogun got the start, frustrated El Tri into committing a red card-worthy foul in the second half, and played 75 minutes in becoming the second USMNT player during the modern era to make his debut in official competition against Mexico.
- Three days later, in the Nations League Final against Canada, Balogun helped secure the USMNT’s tournament victory by scoring his first senior international goal. In the 34th minute, Balogun showed his strength and precision in holding off defender Scott Kennedy while picking up a feed from Gio Reyna and expertly finishing just outside the six-yard-box to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead it would not relinquish.
- The goal in the final made Balogun the second USMNT player score his first international goal in a final, joining defender Chris Richards who scored his first international goal in the same match just 22 minutes prior.
- Balogun was named to the Nations League Best XI team for his contributions to the team’s second-straight title.
- Balogun started all four of the USMNT’s fall friendlies in September and October, scoring against Oman in a 4-0 victory on Sept. 13, getting his first international assist on the team’s lone goal against Germany on Oct. 14, and scoring again against Ghana in a 4-0 rout on Oct. 18.
- The 22-year-old was back in the starting lineup for the USMNT’s home-and-away quarterfinal series with Trinidad and Tobago in November, and got his second international assist in the team’s 3-0 home leg victory.
- Overall, Balogun started in all eight of his international appearances since his debut on June 16, scoring three goals and adding a pair of assists.
Three goals in 12 minutes 🤯🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/9qEq69iIIT— U.S. Soccer Men's National Team (@USMNT) October 18, 2023
- Balogun’s abilities at both the club and international level prompted AS Monaco of France’s Ligue 1 to offer up a $30 million transfer fee to Arsenal in order to acquire his services in August.
- Prior to the transfer, Balogun had been playing on loan in France at Reims, where a productive spring saw him finish the 2022/23 club season as Ligue 1’s fourth-highest scorer with 21 goals. Balogun’s goal haul was just behind that of Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe (29), Olympique Lyon’s Alexander Lacazette (27) and LOSC Lille’s Jonathan David (24).
- Since joining AS Monaco, Balogun has been a regular in the team’s attack. To date, he’s appeared in 10 of 13 league matches, scored four times and assisted on three occasions. His brightest moment came on Sept. 30 against Olympique Marseille, when he scored the match-leveling goal and assisted on the winner in a 3-2 victory.
This is Balogun’s first nomination for U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year and it comes in his first year of eligibility.