Three-time FIFA World Cup veteran and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has opted to not participate in the U.S. Men's National Team until September 2015 and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has agreed. Howard will continue his starting role for Everton of the English Premier League, but will miss eight friendly matches and the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup with the USMNT.
Howard said he wants to spend more time with his family and is not retiring from international play.
"Having played overseas for the last 12 years and missing out on spending time with my family, making this commitment to my family is very important at this time," said Howard. "I am grateful for the willingness of both Jurgen Klinsmann and Everton manager Roberto Martinez to afford me the opportunity to spend time with my kids. It's the right decision at the right time. Jurgen has always been up front with all the players in saying you have to earn your place, which is something I agree with, so I look forward to coming back next fall and competing for a spot."
According to U.S. Soccer, Klinsmann is supportive of Howard taking time off, although when Landon Donovan took four months off from the National Team in 2013, Klinsmann was displeased and later cut him from the World Cup roster, which obviously proved to be a mistake with far-reaching consequences.
"I totally understand Tim's situation," said Klinsmann. "He was very straight forward and honest in his approach, and I admire him for that. He has a wish to take a step back to take care of his family, and we came to the conclusion that it's absolutely fine that he takes time off from international soccer until after next summer's Gold Cup, and then we reevaluate. I told him as long as he is the same Tim Howard that we always see performing well, he will be welcome back with open arms and right back competing for a spot. He knows that he has to prove that he deserves to be back."
Howard has 104 caps and is the USA's all-time leader for goalkeepers in appearances and wins (55). The 35-year-old has played every minute for the United States in the last two FIFA World Cups. In Brazil this past summer, he twice earned Man of the Match honors, including the 2-2 draw against Portugal and the Round of 16 game against Belgium in which he posted a World Cup-record 15 saves.
"This gives us a huge opportunity to see Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando going forward and fighting for the No. 1 spot," said Klinsmann. "We have young talented goalkeepers with Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, who have been brought along the last couple years, so this may give them a chance here and there to get some game time. Always when somebody steps aside for a moment, it gives an opportunity for the next ones in line."
The U.S. Men's National Team will travel to face the Czech Republic on Sept. 3 in Prague, marking the first match for the United States following the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Donovan has since announced his retirement from the international game and will play his final game in Hartford on Oct. 10.