United States men's national team midfielder Christian Pulisic said he wants to play in this summer's Olympic Games if the Americans qualify, though he admits he "can't control" whether club side Chelsea would permit him to play.
The Olympics are classified by FIFA as an under-23 tournament -- a requirement that has increased to U24 after the games were postponed last summer -- with three overage players per team allowed. As such, clubs aren't required to release players. And the timing of the competition means he would miss part of preseason, a time in which he would be keen to impress club boss Thomas Tuchel. And perhaps more. This summer's Gold Cup roster is likely to be comprised of mostly domestic players, given that those players based in Europe need rest at some point. Pulisic is hopeful, but realistic.
"It's something I've thought about, and have wanted to play in," Pulisic said on a Zoom call with reporters about playing in the Olympics. "Obviously, I can't control what goes on. What's best for me at the time and what's best for the team at the time, I obviously can't say. But it is something that I would like to play in."
The U.S. is currently involved in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, and faces Mexico tonight in the group stage finale that will determine which team it faces in the winner-take-all semifinals this weekend. The actual Olympic Games are scheduled to take place from July 21 to Aug. 7.
U.S. men's national team manager Gregg Berhalter isn't expecting his first choice team to be available, should it qualify given that in addition to the Olympics, the U.S. has the CONCACAF Nations League, CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying on its 2021 calendar.
"If we're in a perfect world, there would be nothing more I'd like to see than our best group compete in the Olympics, it would be amazing," said Berhalter. "I'm just not sure that's going to happen. I'm not sure that that the clubs are going to allow the players to go."
Pulisic has plenty of other items besides the Olympics on his mind. He is still trying to establish himself in Chelsea's squad, having started just three of the team's 12 matches in all competitions since Thomas Tuchel took over as manager.
"I was in a similar situation I think when I first came to Chelsea, so I had to work my way and earn my position in the team and to finally get some minutes," he said. "I feel like I did that, and yeah I feel like I'm basically going after and trying to do the same thing now. I feel very confident in my form right now and the way I'm feeling and playing."
If Pulisic plays in either of the U.S.'s upcoming friendly matches against Jamaica and Northern Ireland, which seems a near certainty, it will mark his first appearance since October of 2019. Much has changed since then, with the likes of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna and Valencia midfielder Yunus Musa integrating themselves into the squad.
"I'm very excited to be back with the team, first of all," he said. "I always love just being able to play for my country and be back with these guys. Obviously I know quite a few of them to play with them again and also get to know some of these other guys. They're just doing so well on an individual level."
Pulisic also lauded the anti-racism statements that the team has made during his absence, and he's eager to contribute in his own way.
"We're really proud as a team of what we represent," he said. "Obviously, we have such a diverse team here and it's, it's incredible the stand that we've taken and what you guys have seen. Just to be with these guys and be a part of this, it's really special for me."