Christian Pulisic says the pain of missing the 2018 World Cup won’t go away until he finally gets his chance to play in his sport’s signature showcase.
The United States international was one of the few bright spots during an otherwise dismal qualification campaign, including scoring the lone goal for his team in the 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago that eliminated the U.S. from the World Cup.
While his performance in 2017 was enough to get him U.S. Soccer’s award for male player of the year, Pulisic admitted that the pain of missing out on the World Cup in 2018 is something that will haunt him for at least another four years.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to completely go away until I’m in a World Cup,” Pulisic told ESPN FC. “But it’s what happened. It took me some time but I moved on of course and I think that’s really important.
“If anything, it’s given me a bigger platform to just focus on at club level and do what I can here, without that in my brain. Obviously it’ll never really go away, so it was devastating.”
The Borussia Dortmund attacker was already looked at as one of the most important players on the U.S. team despite being just 19 years old, and that pressure has only increased since the nation’s World Cup miss.
He is now expected to lead the U.S. road back after the qualification failure as the star man among a talented group of youngsters that includes Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie.
Pulisic admitted he thinks the expectations that have been placed at his feet have gone a bit too far, though he understands why it has happened and doesn’t think the U.S. is unique in that regard.
“Well the expectations some Americans put on me is too much is what I would say,” Pulisic said. “But I don’t take it that way. I know no one means harm to me like that or wanting to put too much pressure on me. It’s kind of what they’ve done or do in the past. A lot of countries do.”
After the qualification miss, there have been calls to overhaul the structure of everything involved with U.S. Soccer. Pulisic himself penned a piece in the Players Tribune which talked about his own development, and specifically criticized the lack of young players being given opportunities in MLS.
Though Pulisic downplayed the need for a complete overhaul of U.S. Soccer in this interview, he again emphasized how the environment of the youth system in Germany has helped him develop as a player.
"I've been right there, I see it every day; I literally went through the [German] system,” Pulisic said. “I think what I learned and how I learned from going through when you're 17 until you're 19 and fighting everyday with other players — you're fighting for a pro contract, really — is something we definitely can learn from.
“It's a system that I'd never really experienced in the U.S. I would have never got something like this and I think this is the biggest reason why I've grown so much as a player."