The race to win the international allegiance of Hertha Berlin defender John Anthony Brooks has turned toward the United States, said U.S. under-20 manager Tab Ramos.
Brooks is close to joining the U.S. team for an upcoming tournament in Toulon, France, Ramos said Tuesday. That tournament starts May 28, and includes games against Colombia, France, South Korea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"There's been a lot of progress lately, that Brooks may be joining us for Toulon, but we're not 100 percent sure yet," Ramos said via telephone.
Brooks, the son of an American serviceman and German mother, has been an ever-present force for Hertha this season, one that has already seen the Blue and Whites secure promotion back to the Bundesliga. A 6-foot-5 defender with good ability on the ball, Brooks' performances have caught the eye of both the U.S. and Germany, where he was born and raised.
The U.S. is keen to see him suit at the U-20 World Cup this summer, while Germany is interested in drafting Brooks into the U-21 side that will contest the European Championships set to take place in Israel this June.
An attempt to reach Brooks' agent proved unsuccessful, but Brooks said in a published interview in April that he would be making his decision in the coming weeks. Given that he plays his club soccer in Germany, concern was beginning to mount that the defender would cast his lot with his birth country. As recently as a few weeks ago, Ramos had stated that he was making his World Cup plans assuming that Brooks would not be involved. That assessment appears to have changed.
"If all goes well, there's a very good chance that Brooks will go to the World Cup," said Ramos.
The U.S. managed to survive several injuries to its backline during qualification last February, and the addition of Brooks would provide a massive boost heading into the World Cup. Ramos made it clear, however, that to be on the World Cup squad, Brooks must play in Toulon.
"It's going to be very difficult for anyone we haven't seen in a while to skip Toulon and to make the World Cup team," said Ramos. "That's going to be very hard because we need to see where they are."
The U-20 World Cup begins June 21 for the U.S. when it takes on Spain. That game will be followed by matches against France on June 24 and Ghana three days later.