Direct from England

Seb Hines Hopes for a Chance with the USMNT

British born and raised Seb Hines continues to produce as a defender for Championship side Middlesborough. Is a USMNT call up in the cards for this dual-citizen athlete?
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 26, 2012
10:08 AM

A busy 2013 for the United States national team includes World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup. Middlesbrough central defender Seb Hines hopes it includes him as well.

The 24 year old is a regular starter for Middlesbrough, a club that currently sits in fourth in the Championship with 32 points through 18 games. Despite a recent two-match skid in league play, the team is still within striking distance of the top of the table.

“It’s been really good,” Hines told ASN about Boro’s performance thus far. “It’s put us in a good position for the season. Hopefully we can carry that on. With the players we’ve brought in, there is a lot of quality in the team. We can definitely push on and get promoted this year. We don’t fear anyone in this league.”

Hines joined the Middlesbrough organization a decade ago, signing up with the youth ranks when he was 14. He made his professional debut on August 18, 2007, coming on as a second-half substitute in a 2-1 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage. At the time, Hines was a promising young player who had played for England internationally at the U-19 level. Since then, numerous injuries sidetracked Hines’ career and forced him to miss extended periods of time.

Last year, he regained full fitness in the second half of the season and earned positive reviews for his performances. When the campaign was over, the player and the team reached terms on a three-year contract that runs through the end of the 2014/15 season.

“I’ve been at Middlesbrough my whole career,” Hines said. “They were with me through my difficult times with injuries and stuff. I’ve still got something to prove at Middlesbrough as well. It was pretty much a no-brainer for me. It’s been a good decision for me to stay.”

The club’s manager, Tony Mowbray, agreed that Hines is a top defender when healthy.

"From our point of view [the contract]'s a reward for Seb's consistent performances last year," Mowbray said in July. "In recent years he had a lot of injuries, but he showed the quality he possesses when he got a run of games last year. He played his part in a defensive unit that functioned well.”

In 2013, Hines hopes to help Middlesbrough return to the Premier League. But that's not his only goal. He also hopes that his strong play will attract the interest of Jurgen Klinsmann and lead to a callup to the U.S. national team.

Hines was born in England, but his father was an American citizen who settled in Europe after serving in the U.S. military. Seb briefly lived in North Carolina before returning to England when he was three. He remains very close with his dad, and he talks to his grandparents in Greensboro, N.C., on a weekly basis. Every year in England he celebrates Thanksgiving, and he tries to return to the United States as often as he can.

Hines has also always had a rooting interest in American professional sports; he’s a fan of the Tennessee Titans and follows NBA basketball closely.

“I definitely feel part of both countries,” Hines said of his dual nationality. “It’s not like I found some distant relative [in the U.S]. America has always been a massive part of my life. My father and grandparents are all very much American. I grew up with American sports even over here where they’re not as big as football. Football was the main sport growing up.”

Hines played internationally for England in official UEFA competitions at the U-19 level, so he would have to file a one-time switch with FIFA to change his international affiliation. If he does, he will follow in the footsteps of players including Jermaine Jones, Edgar Castillo, Fabian Johnson, and Teal Bunbury. Should Klinsmann call, Hines is adamant that he would not hesitate in accepting a callup and file his one-time switch.

When he was born, his father got him an American passport but his most recent one expired nearly a decade ago. Over the summer, Hines set out to change that, traveling to London to obtain a valid passport. One of his biggest motivations in taking that step was that it would be easier for him to file the paperwork and accept a callup to the US national team should one come.

For Hines, playing for the United States would be a dream come true and would accomplish a career milestone. “It would be massive,” he said. “It would be an amazing achievement with all the time training and being away injured. Everyone wants to represent their country. I’d be over the moon, really.”

Hines acknowledges that the U.S. team is steadily improving. He actively follows the squad’s results and is familiar with the team’s players. “The games aren’t televised as much [but] I look out for the team’s results. I follow their games and see who is playing, obviously in my position,” he said. “But I do see they won their recent qualifying group and are through to the next round.”

A potential callup would be an achievement for Hines that would mean a great deal not only to him, but also to his American family—who closely follow his career. Seb’s father, Larry Hines, still lives in England and despite never growing up with soccer, has grown to appreciate the sport through his son. Larry recently traveled back to North Carolina for Thanksgiving during and stayed busy talking about Seb’s progress to his friends and family. The elder Hines gets very emotional when he thinks about think about the possibility of his son representing the United States in international soccer.

“It would be absolutely huge,” the father said. “I’ve never experienced it but it would be awesome when that flag is rising up and he’s a part of that. It would be priceless and it’s something you dream about. Maybe it would bring a tear to my eye.”

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