https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/97/USMNT_vs._Trinidad_and_Tobago_%2848125021277%29.jpg/1280px-USMNT_vs._Trinidad_and_Tobago_%2848125021277%29.jpg

This winter sees the USMNT board a plane to head out to Qatar, where they’ll be hoping to progress in the soccer World Cup.

The team failed to qualify for Russia 2018, but they stormed through the CONCACAF qualifying this time out and joined England, Iran and Wales in Group B. It’s a great chance for them to progress beyond the opening stages and maybe even reach the quarterfinals, their best performance at the tournament n the modern era.

They’ll be challenged by England, featuring their exciting young star Phil Foden, but Wales and Iran are below Gregg Berhalter’s team in the current FIFA rankings. That has led them to be ranked as second-favorites to emerge from the group in the Coral betting odds, and if they do, Christian Pulisic will be a key factor. He was just 19 when they failed to qualify for Russia, but he’s matured and is now one of the great hope for Qatar 2022.

Pulisic, known as Captain America by US fans, started his soccer career with George Mason University and spent a year living in England, where he played for Brackley Town. For a significant part of his younger years, he played for PA Classics, where the coach described him as a dedicated soccer player.

“The family weren’t just all soccer,” Steve Klein told Sports Illustrated. “There was never a situation where it was just one sport, and that was it. But definitely, at a young age, he loved soccer the most, and I know he would play on his own in the backyard with his dad. He was always playing.”

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In 2015, the secret was out of the bag, and several top clubs coveted the winger. He’s spent some time at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, but it was the German side Borussia Dortmund who snared his signature. He’d already been capped at Under 17 level by the US, but his move to Germany was a catalyst for his development; he skipped four age groups to make his debut for the senior team in 2016 in a 4-0 win against Guatemala.

After three-and-a-half seasons in Germany, Chelsea finally got their man. They’d eyed his progress since his spell at Cobham, and it took £58m ($70.55m) to take him to Stamford Bridge. It made him the most expensive US soccer player ever, and he quickly settled at Chelsea, scoring the perfect hat-trick (left foot, right foot, header) in a 4-2 win at Burnley. His three seasons at Chelsea have been trophy-laded; he’s a Champions League winner (2021), and UEFA Super Cup winner (2021) and a FIFA Club World Cup Winner (2021). Pulisic is also a three-time FA Cup runner-up (2020, 2021, and 2022) and a League Cup runner-up (2022).

He had been linked with a move away from London, but Thomas Tuchel arrived as manager last season; he’s the same manager that signed Pulisic for Dortmund. Tuchel recently took Chelsea on a pre-season tour of the US and spoke highly of the winger. “He enjoys being in his home country and playing for Chelsea and presents himself within the squad,” the German said. “Of course, we can clearly see the excitement around him.”

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The excitement extends beyond Chelsea and into the USMNT squad. Captain America is so-called because of his ability to perform heroics in the name of his country, and USMNT fans will be hoping he chooses Qatar for some of his greatest feats yet; who knows, he might even propel them beyond the group stages, where anything can happen.

 

By Vil Joe

A writer and editor based out of San Francisco, Vil has worked for The Wirecutter, PCWorld, MaximumPC and TechHive. Her work has also appeared on InfoWorld, MacWorld, Details, Apartment Therapy and Broke-Ass Stuart. In her spare time, she takes too many pictures of her cats, watches too much CSI and obsesses over her bullet journal.

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