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FC Dallas defender Jesus Ferreira cleared to play for USMNT

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CARSON, Calif. -- FC Dallas midfielder Jesus Ferreira has been cleared to play for the U.S. men's national team, with manager Gregg Berhalter stating that Ferreira will start Saturday's friendly against Costa Rica.

The Colombian-born Ferreira had recently received U.S. citizenship, but a FIFA rule requires naturalized citizens to live in their new country for at least five years after their 18th birthday in order to be eligible to play for that country's national team. The rule was instituted to prevent countries from granting citizenship to players and then instantly allowing them to play internationally.

But in the case of Ferreira, the U.S. applied to FIFA for a waiver on the grounds that the player had lived in the U.S. since he was nine years old, and didn't move to the U.S. in order to further his soccer career.

Ferreira is the son of former FC Dallas and MLS MVP David Ferreira, and Jesus Ferreira hadn't played organized soccer prior to moving to the U.S. with his family. The USSF and Ferreira received word early Friday morning that the waiver had been granted. Ferreira's mother, Yudelmira, will be in attendance on Saturday.

"I'm excited," said Ferreira prior to Friday's training session. "I've been working many years for this opportunity to represent our country. It's been a long [process], a lot of paperwork, but it's finally done. I'm excited to get to work."

Ferreira said he had long dreamt of following in his father's footsteps and playing for Colombia, but the opportunity with the U.S. was the one that presented itself.

"Colombia didn't show any interest. I think opportunity that the U.S. has, they've been looking at me since my academy days. That's what's important. That's what helped me decide."

Ferreira has been taking part in the U.S. team's annual January camp for the last several weeks, and has done plenty to impress Berhalter during that time.

"I think he's doing a great job," said Berhalter on Thursday. "We see him as a No. 9 that can drop down and give you an advantage centrally in the midfield but then still be able to finish off plays. He's got excellent finishing, puts a lot of his shots on goal, he challenges the goalkeeper. We noticed that his accuracy is excellent, and he's got a nose for goal. I think that's a quality that you welcome in your team."