- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

CARSON, Calif. (AP) - Kekuta Manneh has become a U.S. citizen, moving the Vancouver Whitecaps forward closer to eligibility for the men’s national team.

U.S. Soccer announced Manneh received his citizenship Wednesday, after the opening practice of January training camp under new coach Bruce Arena.

Manneh still must receive a waiver from FIFA to play for the U.S. team, since he was previously called in for Gambia’s under-20 team.

The 22-year-old Manneh was born in Gambia and moved to Texas as a teenager. He has spent the past four seasons playing for Vancouver while maintaining a U.S. residence just over the border in Washington state.

Manneh broke his right foot in July and missed the next four months of the MLS season, limiting him to 17 games with the Whitecaps last year. The speedy wing has 22 goals in 98 career MLS games, becoming the league’s youngest player to record a hat trick.

“He’s a good young player,” Arena said. “He obviously missed a good part of the season, and is returning from an injury. I don’t think we’re going to expect too much from him early. Hopefully he can get through the next week healthy and start showing what he’s capable of doing. But obviously he’s one of the players that had a difficult 2016 with his injury, and he’s behind the rest of the group right now.”

Manneh won’t play in the Americans’ friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica, but he hopes to be available for their World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama in late March.

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