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Seattle Sounders' Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Steve Zakuani, Blaise Nkufo Receive Green Cards

Three Seattle Sounders -- Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Steve Zakuani and Blaise Nkufo -- were all granted permanent residency in the United States, according to a press release from the team. The U.S. Green Cards each received comes in addition to Sounders' star Fredy Montero's permanent resident status, attained at the beginning of November.

RENTON, WASH. - The Seattle Sounders FC announced today that defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, forward Blaise Nkufo and midfielder Steve Zakuani have received their U.S. Green Cards, granting all three players permanent resident status in the United States, effective immediately.

As residents, Hurtado, 26, Nkufo, 35, and Zakuani, 22, will no longer occupy International Player slots on the club's roster.

A native of Colombia, Hurtado was a finalist for 2009 MLS Defender of the Year and an MLS All-Star selection. He started nine of the first 10 matches in 2010 before sustaining a season-ending injury.

Nkufo finished as the team's third-leading scorer after arriving in midseason, following World Cup duty with the Swiss National Team. He scored the first hat trick in club history on September 18 at Columbus.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zakuani ranks second on the club with 14 goals and 10 assists in his two MLS seasons. A finalist for 2009 Rookie of the Year, he more than doubled his production in 2010, scoring 10 goals with six assists.

As the press release said, Hurtado, Nkufo and Zakuani join Montero as U.S. residents, no longer occupying International Slots on the Sounders' roster. It means a few things for the Sounders as they construct the roster in the 2010 offseason. Each team is allowed eight international players on the roster, meaning the Sounders could, conceivably, bring in four international players should they clear roster space ahead of the season.

On the competition side, the Sounders, who hold the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in high regard and have won the trophy the last two years running, would be able to freely play the four without having them count against the Open Cup's international restrictions. Only five international players can be in the 18 during Open Cup competition, giving the Sounders increased freedom and ability to play more of their stars in the competition.

Most of all, congratulations to Hurtado, Zakuani and Nkufo. Attaining permanent residency in the United States is a huge deal for the three and is surely a proud moment for each and their families.