Christian Pulisic understands the perception: The idea that the United States men’s national team can win the World Cup isn’t worth considering. There isn’t anything about the team’s history to suggest otherwise.
For outsiders, that’s fine. It doesn’t matter. For him, going to the World Cup with a defeatist mindset would defy logic.
“If you don’t believe that it can happen, it won’t happen,” Pulisic told ESPN’s Herculez Gomez in an interview for Futbol Americas (stream every episode on ESPN+). “We’ve seen crazier things happen for sure and I truly believe that we have a strong team, a strong group of guys that can accomplish anything. So that’s just the way I think and the way that I’m going to believe going into this World Cup.”
He doesn’t want to put an artificial limit on what the team can achieve or how to define success four months before the tournament begins. What exactly would that accomplish?
“I think we’re going there with the intention to win the World Cup,” he said. “We’re going to go in as a confident and hungry side that is not going to back down from anyone and we feel that we can really make moves in this World Cup.”
Pulisic is in the United States for Chelsea’s preseason summer tour, which started Saturday with a 2-1 win against Liga MX side Club America in Las Vegas. The American winger didn’t find the scoresheet after coming on as a halftime substitute.
It’s an important preseason for Pulisic as he continues to compete for his place under manager Thomas Tuchel. Chelsea recently completed the signing of winger Raheem Sterling from Manchester City, which should make it even more difficult for Pulisic to receive consistent minutes after spending last season going in and out of the lineup.
“That’s just life at a big club,” he said. “We have great quality and Raheem we’re really excited about it. The beautiful thing about being at a club like this is the competition every single day. We all thrive competing with each other in training. It’s just another great addition to the team and it doesn’t change a whole lot.”
“I’m still going to have to play hard and enter my position just like I did before. Nothing crazy. This is Chelsea. This is what this is, what you sign up for and this is the kind of club it is with the caliber of players that we have,” said Pulisic.
The club has gone through a significant number of off-the-field changes this offseason after ownership was transferred to American businessman Todd Boehly, who also owns minority stakes in the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers. For the players, it hasn’t resulted in much day-to-day change, but Pulisic said Boehly’s arrival has been received well in the locker room.
“I think they’ve come in and done a really good job in the way that they’ve spoken with the players and staff and just wanting to use that same Chelsea mentality — that winning mentality,” Pulisic said. “But also bringing their American ways, some of their business ways, and how they bring in and incorporate that into this team.”
Boehly isn’t the only American inserting his influence in the world’s biggest league. After being hired at Leeds United last season and helping the club avoid relegation, manager Jesse Marsch brought in U.S. national team players Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams to bolster the roster ahead of his first full season in charge. It’s a trend Pulisic is excited about.
“I’m just really proud to see Americans doing what they’re doing in the Premier League now,” he said. “A ton of guys going across to Europe and now a big-time manager [is in] a big job in Leeds and I think just having them stay up last season was a good accomplishment and I was really happy to see it. And now with Brenden, with Tyler, I think if they put on a good season it does wonders for us as a country.”
It would work toward one of the biggest goals Pulisic has for himself: to inspire the next generation of American soccer players.
“I grew up in a country where maybe it wasn’t so attractive to want to play here in the U.S.,” he said. “My goal was always to go over and play in Europe, and I just hope kids are watching and seeing what I’m doing and thinking, ‘Maybe one day we can have a league that’s going to be at that level.'”