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FIFA shapes new rule to help players switch national team


EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 6: Sergino Dest #18 of the United States moves with the ball during a game between Mexico and USMNT at MetLife Stadium on September 6, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images).

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GENEVA -- FIFA is helping soccer players switch eligibility and represent a second national team with a planned rule change announced Wednesday.

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The proposal gives hope to players who are eligible for multiple countries but fell out of favor at their first national team, where they are bound after just a single minute of playing time in a competitive game.

The new wording would let players switch eligibility if they played a maximum of three times for the first national team -- including tournament qualifying games -- before they turned 21, and at least three years earlier.

The new rule will take effect next month if 211 national federations approve it at the Sept. 18 congress that FIFA is hosting online from Zurich.

A FIFA working group has tried for more than two years to shape the new proposal.

A test case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport ahead of the 2018 World Cup is key background.

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Munir El Haddadi, now with Europa League finalist Sevilla, wanted to be selected for Morocco but lost his appeal against the FIFA rules. He had played just once for Spain in September 2014, as a 77th-minute substitute in a European Championship qualifier.

The new rule would not help Brazil midfielder Oscar, who has suggested switching to China where he has played club soccer since 2017.

Oscar would fail the test because he has played more than three times for Brazil, including after he was aged 21, and at a World Cup finals tournament in 2014.

The proposal would bar nationality switches for anyone who played at a “final tournament of the FIFA World Cup or a final tournament of a confederation competition.”

FIFA’s new flexibility even suggests letting players revert back to their original national team if they never actually play for the second one.

The existing FIFA rules have been used by many players born in Europe - who played in national age-group teams or friendly games - and switched to African countries where they have ties through their parents or grandparents.

In more updating of eligibility rules, FIFA wants to clarify how long players must live in a country before they can play for its teams.

The proposal aims to help players who as children moved with their families to a new country for non-soccer reasons.

Three years residency would be required if a player moved before the age of 10, and five years residency if the move was aged 10 to 18.

FIFA’s existing rule already requires a five-year residency from the age of 18 if a player wants to acquire a new national eligibility.

That allowed Brazil-born forwards Elkeson and Aloisio to switch to the current China team after they were naturalized as citizens.