John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images Christian Pulisic
In November, Christian Pulisic will go to Qatar to represent the United States in the Men's World Cup. As he prepares for the tournament, the 24-year-old star forward joined a video chat with another group of people who represent the U.S. overseas: military service members.
"No one's gonna be fully ready for it," Pulisic said about this year's World Cup, the first ever to take place in the winter, right in the middle of club season, during which Pulisic stars for Chelsea FC. "There's never been a World Cup in the wintertime. But I'm just so excited for it and I'll be ready when the time comes."
The Sept. 20 conversation included service members from military installations across the globe. It was organized by the United Service Organization, the non-profit better known as the USO, and hosted by Chris Jacobs.
Pulisic, a Hershey, Pa., native whose father was a professional soccer player, moved multiple times during his childhood — including to England and Germany, where Pulisic began his club career at age 16 with Borussia Dortmund. While talking with service members, he said he could relate to how it feels to be far from home.
"I know it can be difficult," he said. "When you start to get comfortable in one setting and then move to the next, it always seems like, 'I'll never meet the same kinds of people.' But when you go through that process, you learn so much more. You learn to give things a chance, to put yourself out there."
Pulisic was asked what the first thing he'll do when he returns to the U.S.
"Probably get some hot [chicken] wings," he said, adding that regular Buffalo and garlic parmesan were his favorite types.
During the conversation, Pulisic recounted his path to soccer stardom, which he said began at the age of 2 when he started kicking a ball around. (His mother also played the sport at George Mason University, where his father played as well before his pro career.) Pulisic always loved the sport, and the fact that he had fun playing compelled him to work hard. In particular, he worked on his "first touch" after a pass constantly: His father would repeatedly kick a ball high in the air, and Pulisic would have to bring it down and control it as quickly as possible.
"You gotta make sure that you love what you're doing," he said. "If you truly love and you're passionate about the path you're going down, when things get tough, you're not gonna quit, because you love it."
A pivotal moment occurred on Dec. 13, 2013, when Pulisic was playing for U.S. Under-17 team in a friendly match against Brazil. On that day, Pulisic knew there were many scouts from top clubs in the stands, and the pressure was on to play well. He scored a goal and notched an assist on the way to a 4-1 victory. Now, he has a roman numeral of that date — XII XIII MMXIII — tattooed on his wrist.
"I thought that day was life-changing for me," he said.
Nine years later, he's preparing for the sport's biggest stage.
"It's incredible what this sport means to people around the world," he said. "It truly is a special game that can bring people together — but it also has some good rivalries."