List of Cuban football players who have defected to the United States

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A Cuban soccer player running with a soccer ball at his feet.
Osvaldo Alonso defected from Cuba in 2007 to pursue a professional football career.

Since 1999, several Cuban football players have defected to the United States in an attempt to further their professional career or improve their standard of living.

Under the old wet feet, dry feet policy in the United States, any Cuban player who set foot in the United States was entitled to become a US resident. Maykel Galindo, one of the earlier defectors told of the incentives to leave Cuba: "They leave Cuba because they want to make something out of their lives. They are in search of the dream of playing football at a professional level and they know that Cuba will not offer them that. They do it because they feel that their family will be proud of them if they make it to the professional level and many of those players have realized that they can achieve that goal. Thankfully, in my case, doors were being opened to me."[1] The wet feet, dry feet policy ended in January 2017.

As a general rule, Cuban players who defect are not allowed to rejoin the Cuban national team for international matches. Players who defect are generally ineligible to play for the United States team, as FIFA eligibility rules only allow a player to play for one national team during his career.



Rodney Valdes defected to the United States during the 1999 Pan-American Games football tournament in Winnipeg, Canada.


Rey Ángel Martínez and Alberto Delgado defected during the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup. They told Cuba national football team minders that they were going to make a phone call in the hotel lobby but ran out of the hotel and traveled in a taxi to Martinez's uncle.


Cuban international forward Maykel Galindo sought to stay in the United States after he had arrived in the country with the Cuban national team for the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup.


Inspired by Galindo, two players defected at the following Gold Cup, two years later.


Several Cuban youth players defected in 2008 following an Olympic qualifier hosted in the United States.


Two players defected during a 2010 World Cup qualifier.


Yosniel Mesa defected during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup


Yosmel de Armas defected in 2012 during Cuba's qualifying campaign for the 2012 Olympics.

Prior to a World Cup qualifying game against Canada in Toronto, four players and the team's psychologist Ignacio Abreu Sánchez defected to the United States.[12] Cuba were not able to name any substitutes due to the defections.[13]


Four players defected during the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.[14]

Another six defected during the 2015 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship:

One player defected during a personal visit:

One player defected having visited Mexico:


Twelve players defected following the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship which was hosted in Bradenton, Florida.[20]

  • Arturo Hector Godoy
  • Bruno Manuel Rendon Cardoso
  • Christopher Yoel Llorente Fernandez
  • Danny Echeverria Diaz
  • Frank Leidam Nodarse Chavez
  • Geobel Perez Oquendo
  • Josue Vega Alvarez
  • Juan Manuel Andreus Milanes
  • Omar Perez Ramirez
  • Omar Proenza Calderon
  • Rivaldo Ibarra Thompson
  • Rolando Aldahir Oviendo Valdez
  • Yandri Romero Clark

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Background story: Cuba missing player crisis". 26 March 2003. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Cuba critical of Pan Am organizers" (pdf). Laredo Morning Times. 3 August 1999. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  3. ^ Wilner, Barry (2 August 1999). "Cuban Defects at Pan Am Games". Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Cuban defectors a first for MLS". Miami Herald. 14 June 2004. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  5. ^ a b c "Cuban soccer stars Pedro Faife and Reynier Alcantara defect to America". 11 October 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  6. ^ "'Special edge' for Cuban defector Alonso". 30 June 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Charleston Battery signs Cuban striker Lester Moré". 7 March 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Five Cuban Soccer Players Defect in Florida, Miami Herald Says". Bloomberg. 13 March 2008.
  9. ^ a b "Cuban soccer officials stunned by desertions of up to 7 players". Ny Daily news. 13 March 2008. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  10. ^ "Cuba defender Yosmel De Armas is believed to be attempting to defect to the United States". Yahoo Sports. 26 March 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  11. ^ "Laredo Heat roster (2013)". Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Desertaron en Canadá cuatro futbolistas del equipo cubano" (in Spanish). 14 October 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Canada vs Cuba match report". 12 October 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  14. ^ "Gold Cup: Striker Ariel Martinez becomes the fourth player to defect from Cuba". 18 July 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Keilen García desertó de la selección de Cuba". 8 July 2015. Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  16. ^ "Deserta otro jugador cubano en Chicago" (in Spanish). Univision (Miami). 10 July 2015. Archived from the original on 13 July 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  17. ^ "2 Cuban players believed to have defected before match at BofA stadium Dario Suarez and Arichel Hernandez were both no-shows before match". Charlotte Observer. 16 July 2015. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  18. ^ "Gold Cup: Striker Ariel Martinez becomes the fourth player to defect from Cuba". 18 July 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  19. ^ a b c d "United States beat Canada in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying". ESPN. 1 October 2015.
  20. ^ "Doce futbolistas del equipo Cuba sub-20 se quedan en Estados Unidos". CiberCuba (in Spanish). 12 November 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2018.