The US men’s national team last lifted a trophy at the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup, a fact that goalkeeper Zack Steffen is hellbent on changing.
But Steffen isn’t stopping at just any piece of silverware. Rather, he wants to push his teammates to challenge for a FIFA World Cup title and lift the domestic game further than it's ever gone.
Perhaps it’s brash confidence, perhaps it’s just a culture that permeates throughout head coach Gregg Berhalter’s team. Either way, the Philadelphia Union academy product and ex-Columbus Crew standout is clearly dreaming big.
“Our first goal is to change the way the world views American soccer,” Steffen, fresh from his Premier League title with Manchester City, said on Extratime: Club & Country ahead of Sunday’s friendly against Switzerland. “And then our second goal is to obviously qualify for the next World Cup, but then we want to lift trophies.
“We believe that if your goal isn’t to go there and win these types of tournaments and stuff, then why are you doing what you’re doing and what’s the point? Our goal is to lift these trophies, as many trophies as we can and win as many games as we can. To win the World Cup, that’s our goal.”
The USMNT’s best-ever finish in the World Cup’s modern era occurred in 2002, when the Bruce Arena-led side made the quarterfinals. They didn’t qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia, and now are hoping to make the 2022 edition in Qatar before the US, Mexico and Canada co-host in 2026.
Before then, Steffen and the USMNT could win the inaugural Concacaf Nations League. They'll face Honduras in a June 3 semifinal, then would tackle either Mexico or Costa Rica on June 6 if they advance to the final.
Whatever heights are within grasp, Steffen is part of a European-based wave of USMNT players that's emerging from a strong club season. For one, the 2018 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year has already won Premier League and Carabao Cup titles. And this coming Saturday he'll face Christian Pulisic’s Chelesa in the UEFA Champions League final.
Elsewhere, midfielder Weston McKennie helped Juventus win this year’s Coppa Italia and winger Timothy Weah captured the Ligue 1 title with Lille. Attacking midfielder Giovanni Reyna and Borussia Dortmund won the DFB-Pokal, while midfielder Brenden Aaronson completed the Austrian double at Red Bull Salzburg. The list goes on, reflecting the program’s overall direction.
“Americans are not passengers,” Steffen said. “We like to be first.”
For more from Steffen and others, check out the entire Extratime: Club & Country episode here.