Ayo Akinola is shown in a June 2, 2021 handout photo provided by Canada Soccer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canada Soccer MANDATORY CREDIT

TFC striker Akinola switches allegiance from U.S. to Canada ahead of Gold Cup

TFC striker Akinola switches allegiance from U.S. to Canada ahead of Gold Cup

American-born Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola has chosen to represent Canada internationally and will be available to the national men’s team for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Canada Soccer announced Wednesday that Akinola’s change of national associations has been approved.

The 20-year-old Akinola, was born in Detroit but moved to Canada when he was one. He made his debut for the U.S. senior side in December, scoring in a 6-0 win over El Salvador, but is not cap-tied since the match was a friendly.

Before the game against El Salvador, Akinola played for the U.S. at the junior level from 2015-19.

Akinola had been invited to attend Canada’s January camp in Bradenton, Fla., but was unable to attend due to injury.

Akinola made his pro debut for Toronto II on June 15, 2016, and his MLS debut on July 4, 2018.

He turned heads at the MLS is Back Tournament last year with five goals in his first two games. He finished the 2020 season with nine goals in 15 games.

Akinola has two goals in nine appearances for TFC this season.

“I’m really excited to represent Canada at the international level,” Akinola said in a statement. “It’s a very exciting time for the country with all the quality that’s on the roster. Canada has been my home for almost all my life and I’m excited to give back. I’m ready to give my best for Canada Soccer’s men’s national team in these crucial months coming up.”

Canada opens Gold Cup Group B play against Martinique on July 10 before facing a preliminary-round survivor on July 15 and the U.S. on July 18. All three matches will be in Kansas City.

Canada then move on to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying that starts in September.

“It’s great news, we’ve been working for the last 18 months to bring Ayo home to play for Canada,” Canada head coach John Herdman said in a statement. “He’s excited to get going and I’m looking forward to immersing him into the men’s national team environment.”

Akinola is the latest player to switch national associations to represent Canada at the international level. Since 2018, other players that have chosen to represent Canada include Theo Corbeanu (Romania), Stephen Eustáquio (Portugal), Ricardo Ferreira (Portugal), Cristián Gutiérrez (Chile), Frank Sturing (Netherlands) and David Wotherspoon (Scotland).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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