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Poland gives U.S.' Ben Lederman Barcelona green light - sources

Ben Lederman is back at La Masia and cleared to play, according to sources.

U.S. youth international Ben Lederman has returned to Barcelona's youth academy, having acquired a Polish passport, sources confirmed to ESPN FC.

Spain-based journalist Josep Capdevila first reported the news.

"[Lederman] obtained the passport last month, but currently is only training with Barca and not playing until January," said a source with direct knowledge of Lederman's situation.

The development is just the latest in what has amounted to a football odyssey for the 16-year-old.

Lederman was first invited to train at La Masia -- Barcelona's youth academy -- at age 11. Lederman's entire family then moved to Spain to help him chase his dream of being the first American to play for the storied club.

But in 2014, a crackdown by FIFA on clubs illegally registering youth players soon left Lederman without a team.

FIFA's Article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players prohibits youth players from registering with a club outside their home country until they are 18. The regulation allows three exceptions: If a player lives within 50 kilometers of a country's border and his desired club is within 50 kilometers of the same border; if a player is moving from one European country to the other and is at least 16; or if a player's family is moved to a different country for reasons not linked to soccer. Lederman didn't satisfy any of those criteria.

ESPN FC's Joao Castelo-Branco and Barcelona correspondent Sam Marsden discuss where it went wrong for Barca at the Etihad.

In April of 2014, FIFA sanctioned Barcelona for what it deemed were "illegal international transfers" relating to 10 youth players, one of whom was Lederman. FIFA hit Barcelona with a transfer ban for two consecutive transfer periods, as well as a fine of 450,000 Swiss francs.

The ruling meant that Lederman was no longer allowed to be registered with the club, meaning he could only train and could not play in official matches.

Lederman returned to the U.S. in 2015, playing for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., but the academy's director, Rusty Scarborough, said by telephone that Lederman left IMG last June.

Lederman was also invited to take part in the residency program for the U.S. U-17 national team for the 2016 spring semester, but was not on the list for the fall semester.

Acquiring a Polish passport would allow Lederman to skirt FIFA regulations. Since both Poland and Spain are part of the European Union, the player would be allowed freedom of movement across the borders of member countries.

With a passport now in hand, Lederman need only wait until the next player registration period opens in January to start playing official games for one of Barcelona's youth teams.

ESPN FC's Sam Marsden contributed to this report.

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

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