Thirteen-year-old soccer phenom Freddy Adu, whose family relocated from Ghana to Potomac five years ago, became a U.S. citizen yesterday, clearing the way for him to represent this country in international competition. Adu, who played youth soccer here and spent his freshman year of high school at The Heights, has drawn international attention for his ability and turned down a lucrative offer from Italian giant Inter Milan in 2001.

Adu's mother, Emilia, completed the citizenship interview process yesterday afternoon in Baltimore, was sworn in and received a citizenship certificate, making Freddy and younger brother Fredua, another accomplished soccer player, citizens as well. Adu will receive his passport in the next few days and become eligible to join the U.S. under-17 national team for next month's world championship qualification. Adu is already the youngest player to train with the team and is part of the under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla.

"I'm very excited," said Adu, who flew home from Florida last night to spend a long weekend with his family. "Obviously, I've been waiting for this moment for a long time and it's finally here. It's a very exciting moment right now. I found out from my mom when she picked me up at the airport. She was so happy and she said, 'You're an American citizen now.' And I just looked at her and smiled and gave her a big hug."

Although Adu has trained and studied with the U.S. under-17 team, he was barred from playing in official international games until he became a citizen and received his passport. Once he plays for the U.S. in the March 5-9 qualifying tournament in Guatemala he will be bound to this country in international competition, as per the rules of FIFA, the sport's world governing body. The under-17 world championship will take place in Finland in August.

Adu, a gifted dribbler and shooter who can play forward or as an attacking midfielder, was spotted by scouts from several European teams while participating in tournaments in Italy. Bruce Arena, coach of the U.S. national team, has watched Adu several times, including in recent scrimmages against his team, and Adu has also fared well in training and scrimmages with D.C. United. Wednesday night he scored two goals as the under-17 team defeated the Chicago Fire in a preseason game, and there is mounting speculation that Adu could be playing in Major League Soccer by the 2004 season.

"I'm not really thinking about any of that," Adu said. "I'm worried about working hard now, being on this team, qualifying and winning the under-17 World Cup. After that I'll think about what's ahead, but not right now."

Potomac's Freddy Adu, a native of Ghana, has attracted attention from big European professional clubs.