Julian Gressel says that he wants to represent the U.S. men's national team someday, but doing so depends heavily on how contract negotiations with Atlanta United go this summer.
The 25-year-old midfielder is entering the final year of his rookie deal and contract talks have stalled with Atlanta United.
Gressel has made 112 total appearances for Atlanta, having featured in attack, midfield and defense while emerging as one of the most versatile players in MLS.
The German-born midfielder could someday bring that versatility to the USMNT pool, having received his green card in May after marrying an American woman.
Gressel could apply to become a naturalized citizen in May 2022, just a few months before the World Cup in Qatar that winter.
“It’s definitely crossed my mind,” he told The Athletic. “It’d be awesome, it’d be really cool to be a part of (the 2022 World Cup), but obviously that’s where it kind of all comes back together with the contract situation. You’re kind of just weighing that out and kind of seeing how it goes, because if I stay here obviously that becomes more a realistic opportunity for me, I believe. So this offseason is kind of a big thing, or until the summer maybe, who knows?
“I never really expected it to go this way, to kind of embrace the American culture the way that I feel like I have. I’m really excited to be seeing even more of what this beautiful country is made of. There’s a certain pride that comes with it, where I’ve lived here for so long and I’ve been a part of this community in this country for so long, where it’d just be a tremendous honor (to play for the national team).
"I feel like this is my home and I think that feeling that I have — I’m just very passionate about it. I’d give everything I have on the soccer field for the U.S.”
Gressel earned $133,000 in guaranteed compensation in 2019 and is looking for a considerable raise after establishing himself as one of Atlanta's key players.
If the two sides cannot come to an agreement, Gressel would be free to join a new club in January 2021 while signing a pre-contract in July 2020 is also a possibility.
Leaving American soccer would make the road to citizenship a bit more difficult and that process may not be completed in time for Qatar in 2022.
Gressel says that he "loves" Atlanta and that staying is a priority, but only if the club does right by him in the form of a new deal.
“It’s frustrating and it’s disappointing,” he said. “That’s probably the main word: disappointed. It’s a club that I’ve given everything to. I’ve done a lot of things for them, no questions asked, for three years in a row. I’ve been, I want to say, a pretty good ambassador for the club in the community and the league in general… and now to be just kind of pushed off and, I don’t know, disrespected, really, is obviously not making me feel great. The longer this goes, the angrier, the madder and the more disappointed I think I’ll get.”
He added: “If I get injured in the first week and I haven’t signed a deal, who knows if I’ll get a new one. This is obviously my future, and the thing I always think about is these are life-changing amounts. We’re not talking about $5 million vs. $7 million. We’re talking about $130,000 or whatever we come up with in a new deal. Those are life-changing amounts in a way for me and my family, and that’s obviously the number one priority for me."