An island nation far away in the South Pacific, New Zealand is home to nearly 5 million people and 30 million sheep.

Three of them — people, that is — now play for Minnesota United.

First-round draft pick Noah Billingsley and free-agent signee James Musa this season join veteran defender Michael Boxall on a roster that had just one New Zealander during United's first three MLS seasons.

"It's growing," United coach Adrian Heath said. "But they're part of the Commonwealth, so it's OK."

Heath's United Kingdom and the players' New Zealand are members of the Commonwealth, an association of 54 sovereign states — Canada, Australia, India and South Africa among them — mostly comprising former British colonies.

"All owned by the Queen, too," Musa said.

All three have their connections and all have their differences, positionally and in age as well: Boxall is 31, Musa 27 and Billingsley 22.

Boxall and Musa played at differing times for a pro team in Wellington — Billingsley's hometown — and played together on the country's national team. Musa grew up playing with Boxall's younger brother, Nikko, who plays in the same Danish league that former United goalkeeper Vito Mannone just joined.

Billingsley's academy team played a friendly once upon a time against Boxall's team.

"I've never played with him, but I've been on the receiving end of a couple big hits," Billingsley said. "You don't forget those."

Billingsley and Boxall also came through the same UC Santa Barbara pipeline, albeit years apart.

"There's a shirt there with his name next to it," Billingsley said. "So it's hard to forget about him."

Now in many ways they are one, whether that's stretching together before training sessions or socializing away from the pitch.

"Whenever Kiwis go abroad and meet each other, it's almost like you're family because how small New Zealand is and how big the world is," Billingsley said.

Countryman Chris Wood played his way from home in Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, to Burnley in England's Premier League. Midfielder Ryan Thomas played his way from a small North Island town famed for producing kiwi fruit to Netherlands' top league.

Each found his way to the world's best soccer in his own way, in a country where a Wellington team plays in Australia's top league.

"It's difficult to make it out of New Zealand in professional football, when you've only got one professional team and that's difficult to break into," Boxall said. "It's not a set pathway like you do this or do that and you're probably going to make it. You figure it out on your own."

While Boxall and Billingsley found their way through American college soccer, Musa was born in England but raised in New Zealand since he was 6. He played professionally in Australia, England and the United States. He spent the 2017 season with MLS' Sporting Kansas City, playing in one game. The past two seasons he was with Phoenix Rising in the USL Championship league. He faced the Loons in an Arizona preseason game last year.

Boxall occupied one of United's eight international slots until he just received his U.S. green card. Musa helped clear his path back to MLS when he received his own green card last March. Billingsley presumably will take an international spot when he signs.

"Bring 'em all in," said United veteran defender Ike Opara, who played with Musa in Kansas City. "They're all strong and fit. They're a different breed, and that's what we want in this locker room: Good people who are going to work."

Boxall is a starting center back entering his fourth MLS season. Billingsley, a recently converted forward, broke club records in preseason fitness testing. He primarily sees himself at right back. Musa calls himself a versatile player valuable off the bench everywhere from central midfield to the back line.

Musa is 6-0, Boxall 6-1, Billingsley 6-2. All speak Heath's language, if not with his accent.

"Like most Kiwis, they're great guys, competitive, ready to work," said Heath, whose team played its second preseason scrimmage/game Wednesday in Florida against USL Championship league team Charleston Battery. "You can't have too many of them in your group."

Having three on the roster has "just been a coincidence for us," Heath said. "We haven't made a specific note of going down there, but I did see the [world] Under-20s recently and they have some good talent down there. Maybe we should keep an eye on it."

Heath and United staff have scouted from Europe to South America looking to improve their roster. Now they've discovered the South Pacific.

"That's how this team does things," Boxall said. "A couple Englishmen, couple Colombians, couple Costa Ricans, couple Finnish. So I was like, 'I've been here a few years, when is it my turn?' Now here we go."