Chelsea star Christian Pulisic, perhaps parroting a message manager Gregg Berhalter has often used since being hired in December 2018, is dreaming big at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Pulisic, the face of Team USA as the Qatar-based tournament begins, thinks their youth-filled squad (average age of 25 years, 175 days) can change global perceptions.
“We want to change the way that the world sees American soccer, to be honest; that’s one of our goals. I think we have to prove ourselves,” the 24-year-old said. “We haven’t been maybe at the level of some of these world powerhouses in recent decades.
“We’ve had good teams with a lot of hearts and minds, but I think we can take it to that next step. With a successful World Cup, I think that can change a lot of things.”
On paper, the USMNT may have their most talented team at a World Cup. Pulisic, Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie, Borussia Dortmund attacker Gio Reyna and Leeds United midfielder Tyler Adams are all key parts of this new generation.
Now, it’s all about performing as their Group B efforts begin this coming Monday against Wales (2 pm ET | FOX, Telemundo). They’ll also face England (Nov. 25) and Iran (Nov. 29), with the top two finishers advancing to the 16-team knockout round.
“That's what we're here for,” Pulisic said. “We're going to give it everything and hopefully make some waves in the World Cup.”
Pulisic’s World Cup moment comes four years later than he hoped, an emerging young star during the Russia 2018 cycle. But the USMNT failed to qualify, losing at Trinidad & Tobago on the last day of Concacaf’s pathway – back when Pulisic was at Dortmund himself and before he set the American transfer record ($73 million to Chelsea).
The Pennsylvania native stressed how momentous this occasion will be for him, referencing the 2010 World Cup and Landon Donovan’s infamous goal vs. Algeria that booked passage into the Round of 16.
“Watching back then, it was always a dream of mine,” Pulisic said. “I wanted to be there so bad. Now to be here, as a part of this team, actually at the World Cup, it's special. I don't want to take a moment of this for granted. I'm really thankful to be here.”
Pulisic, one of the USMNT’s most experienced players with 21 goals across 52 caps, just hopes those watching back home come together. It's the country's 11th World Cup trip – two decades after a dream quarterfinal run at Korea/Japan.
“The World Cup is something so special for us and I feel like the number one thing that Americans will watch when it comes to soccer,” Pulisic said. “ … We're going to give everything we have and hope to make everyone back home proud.”