Stade Reims may never have had so much attention from the world’s media as they do right now. Will Still is causing excitement and fascination with his record-breaking run of 17 games unbeaten this season while his club are being forced to pay a fine each time he takes charge of a match as he is yet to achieve his UEFA Pro-Licence.
On the pitch, a player is stirring a lot of debate over his international future between England and the United States.
Folarin Balogun is currently having the most prolific senior professional season of his young career. Going into the March international break, he had scored 18 times in 29 games in all competitions for Reims.
Having been lethal in the Premier League 2 and U18 Premier League with Arsenal, Balogun has been in search of senior experience and played 21 times for Middlesbrough in 2021/22, scoring three times, before having a loan to Reims for the 2022/23 season.
This season has seen an uptick in attention from his birth country, the United States, especially with their frustrations in finding a fit and clinical striker for their squad.
Josh Sargent, Hadji Wright, and Jesus Ferreira were the three chosen for the World Cup squad in Qatar. Ricardo Pepi and Brandon Vazquez were left out while Daryl Dike was unavailable with injury.
Balogun, born in New York, is being courted by the United States Soccer Federation, the media and many of its players and has been visiting the squad and the country during this international break. It has led to speculation on which country he will choose. It could be a gamble to choose England as there will be more competition, but there are bigger gambles, as seen at casino online top 10 and daily around the sporting world. Every move a player makes could be seen as an uncertainty, at club or international level, so it is usually advisable for dual national players fo to with their heart.
Having been called up regularly for the England youth teams, from U17 to U21, Balogun has always been monitored as a player for the future within the England camp. His four appearances with the US U18 side did not go further where he did register two goals in those four matches.
At centre forward, England are pretty settled in the present. Harry Kane is one of world football’s best strikers and the Tottenham Hotspur forward recently became England’s leading goal scorer, overtaking Wayne Rooney with 54 goals.
Gareth Southgate has been hesitant to rest his captain and Kane is a starter no matter the relevance of the game. Behind him, 27-year-old Ollie Watkins, 31-year-old Callum Wilson and injury-prone Dominic Calvert-Lewin have regularly been the backups called up.
Ivan Toney is pushing his case for more call-ups and was part of the group this international window and received a few short minutes replacing Kane in the Ukraine match. Marcus Rashford is also an option at centre forward but often plays off the left where he is often very dangerous.
For Balogun, he would have a number of regular players to compete with who have much more experience within the setup, which Southgate does not often rotate. Right now, he is down on the pecking order and his immediate involvement is not something which is being considered.
England in 5 Years
Under Southgate, it has always been a lone striker system and that will likely continue in the trends of the national team and its set-up throughout the age ranges.
Kane turns 30 this year and will no doubt be the starter come the World Cup in 2026 barring injuries or anything unexpected. Those around him are still fighting for their involvement.
Toney has a similar profile physically to Kane and competes and holds up the ball well for Brentford as somewhat of a lone striker.
Eddie Nketiah is trying to force playing time at Arsenal, while Ollie Watkins shows flashes at times for Aston Villa and will need to become more consistent to become the name under Kane on the England team sheet.
There are players within the age range to continue to act as backups to Kane but they will also be entering their 30s after this next tournament.
Who is the future Centre Forward in England?
Balogun is currently competing mostly with Cameron Archer in the U21 side for the starting role up front.
Archer himself is currently on loan at Middlesbrough from Aston Villa. He is another promising striker with lots of pace and quick reactions and already has 13 goals in 32 Championship appearances across his time with Middlesbrough and Preston North End.
There are a number of strikers coming through in the age categories below like Liam Delap on loan at Preston North End from Manchester City and Sheffield United’s Daniel Jebbison who himself could be called up by Canada in the near future.
Stick or twist on Balogun?
Lee Carsley, England U21 head coach, has said he still plans to bring Balogun into the squad in the next window if he is fit. This international break he pulled out through injury and has been seen in the United States which sparked a lot of discussions.
While he is showing his potential, England may feel there are enough players coming through to avoid a tug-of-war with the United States.
Balogun needs to decide what his ambitions are for now, and the long term. He is showing signs of great potential, but this is his first season in such form.
England will have a long-term plan for him, the question is does he want to wait that long?
For a young player, the United States offer an ever-improving squad which will likely make him one of the main contenders to be a starting striker leading into the 2026 World Cup. Can Balogun give up this chance and wait to see if, in time, he can eventually break into the England national team?