In 2017, when neither the USMNT U-20 nor the senior team invited Gonzalez to their camps, even though he was playing professionally, he felt snubbed. “US Soccer was not taking me seriously,” he told me.

A year later, he made the switch and played for Mexico, utilizing the FIFA rule that allows a dual-national player to change nationality just once.

“Here we are sitting on all this talent and not using it,” Gardner said, adding explicit language. “That’s worse than a scandal; it’s an outrage.”

Some soccer analysts in America have suggested looking into the experiences of countries like France and Germany. Both national teams rebuilt their squads after episodes of failure by restructuring their scouting and youth programs to reach young talent in working-class and immigrant areas. The results have been resoundingly successful, with Germany winning the World Cup in 2014, and France in 2018.

“This should have been done 20 years ago,” Gardner said in frustration.

In the meantime, more US-born Latino players are finding their way to other countries. Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Angel Avalo—two of the most promising players who participated in Alianza de Futbol’s showcase in 2018—have been recruited by Mexican national youth teams. In September 2019, Pérez accepted a position as a scout for Mexico’s youth teams.

Pérez insisted that he holds no grudges toward US Soccer, but said it must do a better job at reaching out to underserved communities of color.

The USMNT, Pérez said, can’t wait for the next stars from immigrant communities to just pop up: “US Soccer needs to go to them.”

UPDATE 10/25/19: The piece has been updated to reflect additional comments from US Soccer and to correct an error; in addition to 2018, US Soccer sent a scout to the Alianza showcase in 2013, according to Alianza.