VANCOUVER — Alphonso Davies is one step closer to playing for Canada.
The 16-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps phenom received his citizenship on Tuesday, paving the way for a first national team call-up.
“It’s a great honour to be able to call myself a Canadian citizen,” Davies said in a statement. “Not many people can say they’re a Canadian citizen.
“I’m very proud that I’m one of those people.”
The electrifying midfielder was born in a refugee camp to Liberian parents during that country’s civil war in 2000 before the family relocated to Canada when he was five, eventually settling in Edmonton.
“I’m also extremely thankful to my parents for everything they’ve done throughout the years, carrying the family to this safe environment,” said Davies. “This is our home. This is where I grew up.
“To have the opportunity to represent the men’s national team is a great honour.”
Davies made his debut in Major League Soccer with Vancouver last season at 15, but only had permanent resident status and was unable to play for Canada until getting his citizenship.
He told The Canadian Press in an interview before the 2017 season that it was his intention to play for Canada once he got his citizenship.
The talented teenager has already been rumoured as a target for some of Europe’s biggest professional clubs, with Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi saying last month that Manchester United has made contact.
Davies’ immediate future will see him join the national team, which is ranked 109th in the world by FIFA, for its camp ahead of a friendly against No. 70 Curacao on June 13 in Montreal.
But only participation in a full international would tie Davies to Canada, with the first opportunity coming as early as next month at the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament in the U.S.
Getting Davies in the fold is a big win for Canada Soccer, which has seen players choose to suit up elsewhere when eligible — perhaps most notably Calgary’s Owen Hargreaves, who chose England.
Davies is also among Canada’s preliminary 40-man roster announced Tuesday by head coach Octavio Zambrano as part of preparations for the Gold Cup.
Also included are Whitecaps defender Marcel de Jong, along with midfielders Russell Teibert and Marco Bustos.
Toronto FC had a trio of midfielders named: Raheem Edwards, Jonathan Osorio and Tosaint Ricketts, who is currently out with a hamstring injury.
The Montreal Impact, meanwhile, have five players: goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, defender Wandrille Lefevre, midfielders Patrice Bernier and David Choiniere and striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel.
Cyle Larin (Orlando City SC), Will Johnson (Orlando), Tyler Pasher (Sporting Kansas City), Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas) and Kwame Awuah (New York City FC) round out the Canadian MLS-based players.
There are two new additions in defender Milovan Kapor and midfielder Nicolas Galvis.
Kapor grew up in Toronto and played most recently in Slovakia, while Galvis, who was brought into the Canadian camp ahead of the Curacao match to replace Ricketts, has ties to St. Catharines, Ont., and has been playing in Colombia.
One notable omission is veteran midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, who is resting a quad injury following his season with Besiktas in Turkey.
Zambrano will select his 23-man squad for the Gold Cup after the Curacao match before the squad links up again in Ottawa on June 28 for another camp.
Canada opens the tournament July 7 against French Guiana in Harrison, N.J., before taking on Costa Rica on July 11 in Houston, and rounding out group play against Honduras on July 14 in Frisco, Texas.
Canada’s provisional 40-man Gold Cup roster:
Goalkeepers: Milan Borjan, MKS Korona Kielce (Poland); Maxime Crepeau, Montreal Impact; Jayson Leutwiler, Shrewsbury Town FC (England); Simon Thomas, FK Bodo/Glimt (Norway).
Defenders: Dejan Jakovic, New York Cosmos (NASL); Manjrekar James, Vasas Budapest (Hungary); Milovan Kapor (Unattached); Wandrille Lefevre, Montreal Impact; Adam Straith, FC Edmonton (NASL); Steven Vitoria, Lechia Gdansk (Poland); Sam Adekugbe, Brighton & Hove Albion (England); Juan Cordova, Huachipato (Chile); Marcel de Jong, Vancouver Whitecaps; Andres Fresenga, Cerro Largo FC (Uruguay); Nik Ledgerwood, FC Edmonton; Tyler Pasher, Sporting Kansas City.
Midfielders: Fraser Aird (Unattached); Tesho Akindele, FC Dallas; Scott Arfield, Burnley FC (England); Kwame Awuah, New York City FC; Patrice Bernier, Montreal Impact; Marco Bustos, Vancouver Whitecaps; David Choiniere, Montreal Impact; Alphonso Davies, Vancouver Whitecaps; Raheem Edwards, Toronto FC; Kianz Froese, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany); Nicolas Galvis (Unattached); David (Junior) Hoilett, Cardiff City FC (Wales); Will Johnson, Orlando City SC; Mark-Anthony Kaye, Louisville City FC (USL); Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC; Michael Petrasso, Queens Park Rangers (England); Samuel Piette, CD Izarra (Spain); Tosaint Ricketts, Toronto FC; Russell Teibert, Vancouver Whitecaps.
Strikers: Lucas Cavallini, CA Penarol (Uruguay); Marcus Haber, Dundee FC (Scotland); Anthony Jackson-Hamel, Montreal Impact; Simeon Jackson, Walsall FC (England); Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press