Michael Nsien’s Vision with the USYNT
Article Written by Chris Dailey
When asked about his mission with the USYNT, that was Michael Nsien’s response.
Nsien, a Tulsa, Oklahoma native, played college soccer at Dayton University before playing professionally in the USA with LA Galaxy and the Portland Timbers. Nsien later served as the Head Coach of FC Tulsa in the USL Championship before transitioning into his role with the US Youth National Team.
Coming off of a successful campaign at the U16 Dream Cup in which the USYNT finished equal with Japan and the Netherlands on points but lost out on goal differential, Nsien is making his plan for the future clear: to expand the pool.
The United States is a massive country, in fact, the third most populated country in the world. This fact makes it very easy for talent to slip through the cracks and not be scouted by the US Youth National Team system.
Nsien, however, wants to put an end to the countless amount of talents that go unnoticed due to the sheer mass and population of the country.
“Expand the pool,” Nsien said when asked what his mission is, he continued, “My job is clear – identify talent and my hope is that in the next World Cup, a couple of these players will be there. See how the players respond in our environment, there’s a piece of me as well, every player that passes by me as a coach – I want them to be brave and compete to win things.”
Nsien has already begun his extensive process of making sure no talents slip through the cracks by working alongside his Talent Identification Scouts who are stationed in several parts of the country.
“We have four talent ID managers that work in different regions, as well as European based scouts,” stated Nsien.
Nsien is working to help the USYNT – regularly dominated by MLS Academy-based players, find talents that aren’t in the biggest of clubs but have the skill that warrants a chance at the bright lights with the National Team.
For example, Evrit Fisher, a midfielder for D’Feeters Kicks Soccer Club (DKSC) in the ECNL was given a chance earlier in the year thanks to the Nsien’s unique scouting strategy that ensures more players get a chance.
“We hold ID Centers, so basically for players that are not involved in MLS academies, those ID Centers are a real genuine opportunity to get seen by scouts, ” said Nsien regarding Fisher’s call-up and how the USYNT gives non-MLS academy players a crack at the youth national teams.
Alongside Nsien’s unique talent identification, he embraces the USA’s diversity in making the players feel more comfortable and embrace their roots.
“You look at the (Spain) roster and you see Barcelona, Madrid, and maybe there’s one or two players outside of those two. But if you look at our roster, there are guys on the East and West Coast, North and South, and Europe, and I think that really identifies what we’re about. The United States, where we embrace our diversity… the diversity of the American player is an exceptional quality,” stated Nsien.
No one player is the same. Many of Nsien’s players are dual-nationals and often-times first or second-generation Americans that are working hard to help give their families the life they dream about. These players have starred at the biggest of tournaments and have a bright future ahead of themselves in the sport of soccer.
Santiago Morales, for instance, is an Argentinian-American and the son of Javier Morales.
‘Santi’ as he’s referred to by most, played so exceptionally with the USYNT U16s at the Football Federations Cup in November of 2022 that he was given a shot to play for the U17s.
Other players such as Montrell Culbreath, a forward who just recently signed with Bayer Leverkusen, show that you don’t have to live in the United States to be seen and identified by the program.
Culbreath has been called up to the USYNT U16s as a German-American living in Germany. Before signing with Bundesliga giants Bayer Leverkusen, Culbreath was playing in the academy of 1FC Kaiserslautern, a second division club in Germany. Culbreath has also been capped by the Germany U16s and is a talented young forward that the United States has done a good job of recruiting and introducing to the program.
Culbreath was the recipient of the Golden Boot at the November Football Federations Cup in Spain and helped the Red White and Blue prevail over the likes of Wales and England.
Talents such as Culbreath often went under the radar for years until recently when an influx in dual-national recruiting has helped the US Men’s National Team become a powerhouse in CONCACAF and a legitimate force in world soccer.
The USA U16s at the Dream Cup. Photo cred: JFA
Looking at the current USMNT roster, Sergiño Dest is a prime example that the USYNT can be a powerful tool for recruiting elite dual-nationals. Dest represented the USA U17s in his youth, before eventually committing to the USMNT over the Netherlands.
Nsien understands that the process of dual-national recruiting starts on a youth level, and he is making sure to emphasize that.
“These kids are competing for the badge and for the crest”
“I asked my players to share their stories, and we have a lot of dual-nationals. It was Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, who’s an immigrant, none of us are really from here. When you think about our lineage, there are just so many stories of first-generation and second-generation kids that know their parents or grandparents struggle to come to the United States for an opportunity. And these kids are competing for the badge and for the crest. That’s honestly to me, the American dream, maybe one-two generations from another country, and all of a sudden they’re representing that flag. That makes us pretty special,” Nsien said about how he welcomes dual-nationals and makes his team feel comfortable.
Between an intense, extensive outreach program in which Nsien and the USYNT are making sure little to no talents slip through the cracks and welcome aboard dual-nationals that embrace the United States melting pot identity.
It has been a long process to date, but the progress the United States has made in soccer has been remarkable, and come 2026 and years to come, the goal will be to hoist the Jules Rimet Trophy, or simply known as the World Cup..
Nsien has recently been selected to join the coaching staff of the Senior Men’s National Team, currently working on the sidelines at the Gold Cup. It may only be a few years from now that we see some of the players from his USA U16 side that break into the USMNT roster.
Nsien is helping lay down the foundation for how to accomplish just that and setting the tone for the US Youth Soccer scene and what it takes to make it to the top.