Despite playing soccer in Germany, Christian Pulisic always reps his hometown of Hershey, Pa. Pulisic, the 19-year-old wunderkind for the United States Men’s National Team who is already considered one of the greatest American footballers ever, has “straight outta Hershey” proudly displayed in his Twitter bio.
So it makes sense that — with Pulisic back stateside for a friendly between his Borussia Dortmund side and MLS’ LAFC, along with an upcoming USMNT friendly against Bolivia in Philadelphia on Monday — The Hershey Company would want to show him some love. Hershey’s Chocolate World in New York City played host to an announcement regarding a partnership with the two. Pulisic even got hooked up with his own special pair of Nike cleats, featuring a pretty (pun intended) sweet twist.
After the unveil of the kicks, Uproxx Sports caught up with Pulisic to discuss this summer’s World Cup and why he looks to the example set by another former teenage sports star from the United States.
I know you’re a big basketball guy and I know you’ve said a few times that LeBron is an inspiration for you, you think you can learn a lot from him. First, do you see any similarities between yourself and him? You know, coming into the public eye as a teenager, pressure on you at a young age, all that?
I think that’s why I started to gain more and more respect for him because I started to understand what he had to do at such a young age in sport, under all the pressures that he was under, the way he keeps his mind and how keeps his body so fresh all the time is really inspiring to me.
And what examples has LeBron set that you’ve tried to replicate, whether it’s on or off the pitch?
Yeah, just like you said, on and off the pitch. He continues to set that example for his youth. He’s not just okay with being a good basketball player, he wants to inspire kids and the way he does that and is passionate and, mostly, the way he continues to stay healthy and do it at the highest level all the time is what inspires me to keep my body fresh.
You’re still a teenager who, you’re viewed as one of, if not the, faces of soccer in this country. What kind of pressure comes with that and how do you handle it?
Yeah, for me it’s not so much pressure. I put enough pressure on myself to be great, that’s what I expect from myself. The outside sources, whatever they may say, it doesn’t effect me too much. I’m doing this for me and for my family and that’s about it.
And you’re having fun while you’re doing it, so it’s really all that matters.
So, one thing that’s been fun to watch have been transfer rumors. I’m not gonna ask you about any of those specifically, but what’s it like hearing numbers like 70 million, 80 million Euros thrown around in a relation to your name?
Not something that I need to worry about. I’m very focused on my game and continuing to improve. Yeah, let other people worry about that.
I do want to get a few World Cup predictions from ya. First, who do you think wins it all and why?
It’s hard to say, man, but I do have some friends on Germany, on Belgium, teams like that. So, I will be definitely rooting for them to win.
And who’s the country that you think everyone might be sleeping on?
In this World Cup? I think that there’s a lot of good teams this year. I don’t know if I would say any of those teams are being slept on. I think people realize the talent that’s in this tournament.
So, is it gonna be bittersweet watching or you just gonna try and enjoy it as soccer fan with your eyes on 2022?
I’ll just try to enjoy it. I just want to enjoy this tournament and just watch some good football.
Dortmund is participating in the International Champions Cup this summer, facing off against Manchester City in Chicago, Liverpool in Charlotte, Benfica in Pittsburgh.
They’re all clubs that you normally wouldn’t get a chance to go up against, is there any one that you’re especially looking forward to playing if you play them and why is that?
Yeah, I think there’s gonna be some really good competition. No specific club that I’m so excited about, but to have good competition, especially playing in the U.S. with Dortmund, will be a pretty incredible experience.
And getting ready for Champions League next year and stuff like that, going against clubs of that caliber, has to be …
Exactly. It’s good, good practice for us, good warm up games, going into the season.
There’s so much chatter about how to fix American soccer right now, if you were given the power to change one thing, whether it’s a specific thing or something a little more broad, what would that thing be and why?
Like you said, it’s hard to give something super specific. Right now I just think it’s continuing to develop our system as academies and moving into the professional level in America is where I think we could take a big step. Because in Europe, I think they have that really set up nice as kids move into that professional level, how they’re fighting for professional contracts. Something we can learn a lot from.
And you hope you can maybe help open some doors with what you’re doing over in Germany?
Yeah, I think that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m over there trying to set a new standard for Americans. Inspire kids and if I can do that then I feel really good about what I’m doing.