Young dual national Tyler Bindon explains his decision to represent New Zealand
September 27, 2023
IT HAS BEEN A huge month for Reading’s central defender Tyler Bindon. Not only has he broken into the club’s starting lineup at age 18, he has also made the bold decision to represent New Zealand internationally over the United States.
After spending five years in Southern California with LAFC’s academy, Bindon had recently relocated to England with his parents after the pair had found new jobs in London. Once there, he went on trials and impressed but it was the offer from Reading which stood out because of the plan outline by Director of Player Development Eddie Niedzwiecki and Head of Football Operations Mark Bowen. He ended up signing a professional deal with Reading in early August.
“I saw the pathway that was being created by Mark and Eddie, and it helped,” Bindon told ASN from England. “It was very reassuring to be a part of that club. And I wanted to be there because I feel like it's best for my development.”
Reading was relegated last season out of the Championship and into League One. The goal of the club is to earn promotion as soon as possible and it has placed a lot of responsibility on Bindon who has been starting in central defense. Thus far, he has made four league starts and the club has won three of those games. In recent weeks, there have been reports that Arsenal and other clubs are scouting him.
Back to league action today, and we've taken a deeper look at the numbers in the league behind 18-year-old Tyler Bindon's impressive start to his Reading career ????????— Reading FC (@ReadingFC) September 23, 2023
???? Delivered by https://t.co/jrXrXir9lN pic.twitter.com/0SE4xM3gRs
But his success has forced Bindon into big decisions that typically do not come to players at such young ages. As a dual national with New Zealand and the United States, both national team programs have taken interest. Earlier in the year, he represented the United States U-19 team under Marko Mitrovic, a former Reading assistant who is now the head coach for the U.S. U-23 team.
Bindon, however, has very strong ties to New Zealand. His mother, Jenny Bindon, was born and raised in the United States but who went on to earn 77 caps as the goalkeeper for New Zealand’s women’s national team. His father, Grant Bindon, was the captain of New Zealand’s national volleyball team.
Meanwhile, Bindon was born in New Zealand and lived there until the age of 12 before relocating to the United States for his mother’s employment as a coach for UCLA’s women’s soccer team. But in New Zealand, he grew as an athlete before moving to California. His mother, however, was a big reason for him to focus on soccer.
“My mom was a big factor in that,” Bindon said of becoming a soccer player. “I've always been around the game and she played for New Zealand and I used to go to all of her trainings when I was younger, so it's kind of just become innate with me. I used to go to all of [my father’s] trainings and games in New Zealand, and I was in the gym whenever he was. When we moved to America, I started playing beach volleyball and I was getting into that. But my main focus was always football.”
In California, Bindon took even bigger steps and it was there when he would join LAFC’s academy and make serious strides in his development.
“I was with LAFC for five years,” Bindon said. “The development program is really good and they're producing top quality players and I think every day was a challenge for me and I really enjoyed it. The coaching staff there supported me and helped me along the way and it was just a really good place to be.”
In early 2023, Bindon was called up by Mitrovic to play with the U.S. U-19 team for a pair of friendlies in the March international window in Argentina. While his ties to New Zealand were very strong, he accepted.
The ties he has for the United States stem from his mother’s family in Illinois – and he is especially proud of his American grandfather who served in the U.S. Army and was awarded two purple hearts in the Vietnam War. Part of motivation behind accepting the callup to the U.S. U-19 team are due to that.
“It was a great experience,” Bindon said of his U-19 call-up. “I loved every minute of it. I think Marco is a great person and a great coach. The staff he brought on were fantastic. It was all very positive, and I really enjoyed my time there. I think representing the US was special because my mom's father was in the army. It very special to me just to say I can represent the U.S. for my grandfather because he served and it is special in that sense.”
But successful first team minutes with Reading have also not gone unnoticed with New Zealand. Last week, New Zealand’s national team manager Darren Bazeley told the media he planned to meet with Bindon to gauge his interest in playing for the All Whites.
Over this past weekend, Bindon said he called Mitrovic to inform him of his decision to represent New Zealand. He said that while disappointed, the coach wished him well and was happy the decision came from the heart. On Tuesday, Bindon was officially called up to New Zealand’s full national team for a pair of October friendlies in Europe against DR Congo and Australia.
“I have made a decision, and that is to go with New Zealand,” Bindon said. “But it was very difficult to make for me because I loved the development and the coaching that Marco was doing with all of his staff and I really enjoyed the camps. The final decision came down to what I feel like is my home and I've spent most of my life in New Zealand. When I think of where my home is, I always picture New Zealand. It made sense just for me personally. As a country, I want to represent my home.”
For the U.S., the decision is a bit of a setback given the limited number of young centerbacks emerging at the professional ranks in recent years. Had he stuck with the United States, he likely would have been a core member of the U.S. U-20 team to start the 2025 U-20 World Cup cycle and possibly have had a chance to play up an Olympic cycle with the U.S. U-23 team who are now coached by Mitrovic.
Bindon is comfortable with his decision to go with the All Whites and he pointed out that his mother also faced a choice between the United States and New Zealand. But she felt she made the right decision and Bindon, an only child, is happy to represent the same country as both of his parents.
“My mom always resonates with New Zealand as well,” Bindon said. “She feels very attached to New Zealand. It's hard to explain, but there's just a big connection in that country and everyone fights for one another and special connection that she has, and I have, and my dad has.”
Now moving forward, Bindon will hope to take his first steps with New Zealand. New Zealand has qualified for the World Cup twice – in 1982 and in 2010 when they failed to advance, but also did not lose a game (finishing with three draws). Bindon acknowledges that the World Cup expanding to 48 teams could help New Zealand, but he is also excited to be part of a talented group of younger players he hopes will give the team a bright future.
"I think the future's very bright for New Zealand,” Bindon said. “I think with the new team system that the World Cup has, they have a much better chance of getting into the World Cup… I think it is a very good opportunity for New Zealand and hopefully they can grab it with both hands and take it in full stride.”