Christian Pulisic became the youngest player ever to captain the USA when he led his country out against Italy in November 2018, aged 20 years and 63 days. The Borussia Dortmund star has been playing ahead of the curve for some time, and should be given the chance to lead the USMNT on a permanent basis.
1) Positive attitude
Allow bundesliga.com to deliver ten compelling reasons why Pulisic should be keeping that armband for years to come.
Life is not a string of highs, even when you are Pulisic. The USMNT's recordman has had to deal with some inevitable lows too, but this is when you discover a person's true character – and Pulisic has dealt with these like a consummate professional. Merely arriving in Germany at the age of 16, knowing nobody and not being able to communicate easily, would have been enough for most people to book that ticket home. ""I remember not speaking the language or understanding anyone. Every single day was a grind," Pulisic told CNN. "I had to get stronger and stronger, quicker and quicker with all my movements. It's a fast learning process if you want to be successful at the highest level." That perpetually positive attitude served him well, as he led the USA out in Genk. "It's a huge honour," he said. "For the coaches, the staff, the team to trust me to be captain of the team – it means everything. I was never a captain in my life, and to be [captain] for the USMNT, it's an incredible honour. It doesn't matter what age you are."
Watch: Pulisic's top three goals for Dortmund
2) USMNT's key player
The fact the USA failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018 for the first time since 1986 was not for the lack of trying, at least not on the part of Pulisic. He had a hand in 11 of the USMNT's 17 goals in what proved ultimately to be an unsuccessful qualifying campaign. Pulisic provided practically two thirds of their goals from a position where he can cause plenty of damage. He has been, in a way, a Wayne Rooney figure for the USA – and unsurprisingly, the former England icon is one of Pulisic's own inspirations. "His passion for the game spoke for itself," he said. "You can even see it now in the MLS, I love that about him. He was fighting, he would go up and win a header despite not being a big guy. I loved watching that when I was younger."
3) Prolific number 10
Pulisic takes up a slightly different role for his country compared to the one he plays in Dortmund, where he often starts from a wider berth. The statistics back him up as a prolific number 10 for the Stars and Stripes with an impressive nine goals and seven assists in just 23 senior appearances, underlining his role as a key player for the USMNT. It is evident he enjoys himself there too. "I just play because I enjoy the sport," he said. "I set my own personal goal. I know what I want to accomplish, for myself and to help my team." That being said, he is still highly effective out on the wing for BVB, having notched 10 goals and 17 assists in 78 Bundesliga appearances. Not bad for a man who only turned 20 in September, and started 28 of those league games on the bench.
4) Long-term planning
The USA will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, together with neighbours Canada and Mexico, and while that means they will not need to go through qualifying, they will be expected to put on a show when the event hits the nation – and a show is synonymous with success. Pulisic will be 27 and in his prime when that World Cup comes around, and giving him responsibility now can only help him grow into becoming the poster boy for the tournament, and the man the USMNT can rely on to help them follow in the footsteps of South Korea (2002), Germany (2006), Brazil (2014) and Russia (2018) in being successful hosts - on and off the field.
5) Making America great again
In missing out on qualification for the World Cup, US Soccer reached something of a crossroads in 2018. "The Tim Howard/Clint Dempsey/Michael Bradley era is over, and pretty much any player older than 26 will be past his past his prime when the World Cup in Qatar kicks off in November 2022," wrote USA Today. "By then, Pulisic, at 19 already the top American, should be surrounded with other players on the rise, such as Weston McKennie. Haji Wright is another top prospect along with forward Josh Sargent." All ply their trade in the Bundesliga and have more than just a WhatsApp group bond – Pulisic and a golden generation of US talent, honing their skills in Germany, are all good friends off the field.
7) At the heart of the action
Gone are the days when a big centre-half who could shout louder than a megaphone was the identikit for a captain. Coaches now prefer to pick captains not based on the strength of their vocal chords, but their overall involvement in the game, and this is where Pulisic is in a position to make a difference. He is the player who regularly has the most touches and phases of possession in USMNT fixtures and is therefore in a position where he can make a difference not just by shouting out the orders, but by putting tactical directives into practice. By comparison, David Beckham exerted a similar influence as the extended arm of the many England and club managers he played for, and this is another area where the responsibility of being captain can only reinforce Pulisic's impact on the team.
8) World Cup motivation
One of the biggest factors in a footballer's and indeed in a team's success is motivation. Were football a science, it would take a whole manner of formula to explain the numerous giant-killings and cup exploits, and this is where the motivation factor assumes such importance. Step forward Pulisic, who has proven with his motivation that the sky is the limit - for him and his country. "With the talent we have now, and if we continue to grow as a sport in the country, there is no reason that we can't make a good run in a World Cup one day," Pulisic told CNN, effusing his positive belief. "Playing for the US in the World Cup has been my dream ever since I can remember," he wrote on The Players' Tribune. "World Cup Final … minute to go … ball on Pulisic’s foot … and he scoooores! — that’s what I would dream about. For me, that’s always been the pinnacle of what I could accomplish in this sport."