Arturo Alvarez grew up in USA but the first team he envisioned himself playing for was his father's native El Salvador.
Alvarez, who plays professionally for the MLS San Jose Earthquakes, recently switched his soccer nationality from the United States to El Salvador making his debut with the Los Cuscatlecos in their last game against Trinidad and Tobago.
"My dad's been a fan his whole life," Alvarez said. "When the Salvadoran national team played you couldn't get them on TV. He would take me to a bar so we could watch on pay-per-view. "I truly believe this is the way things were meant to turn out."
Alvarez is one of three MLS players who will play for El Salvador in a 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier on Saturday against the Americans at Rio Tinto Stadium. He grew up in Houston and played for the USA Youth National Team before applying to FIFA to change associations. The odds are long, some say impossible, but a loss to the US would not automatically eliminate El Salvador from World Cup contention.
The top three teams from the group automatically qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup while the fourth place team faces the fifth place finisher from South America in a play-off. El Salvador (five points) currently sits in fifth place, four points behind Mexico. The USA is in fourth with 10 points.
El Salvador has lost three of their last six games but on a positive note sniper Rudi Corrales leads all scorers in the region with seven goals in FIFA World Cup qualifying.
American Landon Donovan has recovered from the swine flu and can make USA history on Saturday. Donovan is poised to vault past Claudio Reyna, Kasey Keller and Eddie Pope, into first place with 32 career appearances in FIFA World Cup qualifying.
The last time the two teams met they battled to a 2-2 draw in March in San Salvador. The Americans recently had their 58-game home soil undefeated streak snapped in a heartbreaking loss to Mexico on 12 August. They will be seeking to start another streak against El Salvador.
In other qualifying matches on Saturday, Trinidad and Tobago takes on Honduras and first place Costa Rica battles Mexico. Like El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago has a steep hill to climb on Saturday. The last time the teams met, they played to a 1-1 draw in Port of Spain.
"I expect it to be a difficult game, but no game is an easy one," Trinidad coach Russell Latapy said. "Honduras has some good players and they are coming off a good result. We have some work to do."