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Q&A With Tim Howard: US World Cup Predictions, Frito-Lay, USA vs. England, LeBron James, Soccer Or Football

Tim Howard USMNT

COUVA, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO - OCTOBER 09: Tim Howard of the United States mens national soccer team during their training session at the Ato Boldon Stadium on October 9, 2017 in Couva, Trinidad And Tobago. (Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

It’s debatable how many “world class” soccer players the United States has produced. But there’s no debate at all that goalkeeper Tim Howard is one of them.

From humble beginnings in New Jersey to becoming one of the first Americans to starting for iconic Manchester United to 15 years as the starting goalkeeper for the USMNT, Tim Howard has accomplished more than almost any American soccer player.

But the World Cup was where Howard really distinguished himself as a global superstar. As the starter for the US at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, he allowed just 7 goals in six group stage matches with a clean sheet against Algeria in 2010 en route to back-to-back Round of 16 trips. At the 2014 Round of 16, Howard set a World Cup record with 16 saves in a loss to Belgium.

Now retired, Howard does a variety of work as an analyst, a part-owner of several soccer clubs and various endorsements. For the 2022 World Cup, he’s teamed up with Frito-Lay for their Soccer vs. Football campaign with such global stars as Peyton Manning, David Beckham and Michael Bay.

We caught up with Tim to discuss the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, his campaign with Frito-Lay, his U.S. men's national team's World Cup run, if LeBron James could ever play soccer and much more.

This interview is made possible by Frito-Lay:

TheSpun: What campaign are you working on and what made this the right time to join in?

Tim Howard: First and foremost David Beckham and Peyton Manning were involved so I thought ‘I want to be a part of that.’ Obviously my dear friend (former USWNT star) Julie Foudy was involved as well. The campaign brings fans together for the World Cup and the age old debate whether it’s soccer or football. I’m living proof that that debate rages on. I grew up playing soccer and learned my trade - and then I went over to England and don’t you dare call it soccer there. I learned to call it football for a decade and a half. Now I work in television and I transition between both. So traditionally for me it was soccer. And as long as I don’t forget the chips we’re good!

Frito-Lay Snack Cards

TheSpun: When you played in England did your teammates ever pick on you for calling it soccer?

TH: Every single day. (laughs) I learned very quickly. In England all of my buddies had terrible American accents so I would say ‘Soccer’ then they would say ‘Soccer? What’s soccer man?’ So I decided to call it football so we don’t have that conversation anymore. It’s what you hear all the time - soccer - but then for a decade and a half living in England you don’t hear it called soccer. There was a transition.

TheSpun: Who was your favorite person to work with during the campaign?

TH: Well, my arch-nemesis was Chicharito (Javier Hernandez). What a brilliant human being Javier is - I love being around him. We had some fun conversations and there’s a lot of mutual respect.

But working with Michael Bay - my jaw dropped. You’re going into it and you think you know who Michael Bay is, he’s a brilliant producer, world-renowned. But then you meet him in person and he’s just larger than life. I think for me it was just a sense of being floored by somebody and I was very fortunate to work with him.

Tim Howard and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez

TheSpun: The USMNT's World Cup game against Wales came down to a penalty conversion by Gareth Bale - what’s your message to the team heading into Friday’s crucial game against England and next week’s against Iran?

TH: Three points makes you feel like the sun is shining but one feels like doom and gloom. I truly think that this group will come down to goal difference. I think England will sweep the group (and win all three games) no problem. I think USA and Wales will finish with four points each. So it’s going to come down to goal difference. I think in moments like that you have to humble yourself. It is okay to go into the England game and say “You know what, we need to set up shop and we need to make sure to keep the scoring down and not expose ourselves too much. If the opportunity presents itself, sure, let’s go for it.” But just make sure that we don’t get exposed.

England has the capability to score six goals against Iran. They have players that come off the bench that are goal-hungry. It’s never ending with this England team. They’re very good. I think you have to be very cagey and humble and make sure the scoreline stays down and give yourself an opportunity going into the Iran game to give yourself a chance to go through.

TheSpun: Referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim took a lot of heat for seemingly losing control several times. Any thoughts on the officiating in that match?

TH: I think the officials have a really difficult job. What I would say is, if the referee is going to be consistently inconsistent then it falls on the player to read the room. It seemed like every tackle he was brandishing the yellow card. So as a player I have to realize “Okay, I have to be more careful with my tackles and how I tackle because this referee isn’t letting anything go.” But the onus is on the players at that point - try to influence the referee through your voice, but also understand where he’s coming from, whether he’s going to be lenient or not.

TheSpun: Are there any changes you would see head coach Gregg Berhalter make to the starting XI for Friday versus England?

TH: I think everyone’s calling for Gio Reyna because he’s such a talented player and he’s had big games to shine in Germany with Borussia Dortmund. He’s a special player and the World Cup breeds special moments. But I think the team played very well. Barring any knocks or injuries, this is a strong team to put out.

TheSpun: Do you believe Gregg Berhalter’s status should be reevaluated after the World Cup, or would you keep him on no matter how this plays out?

TH: I’m a firm believer that every national team manager should have a four-year shelf life and be re-evaluated post-World Cup. Absolutely. That’s just the nature of international soccer to me. What you end up seeing is teams often run into problems when they overextend themselves into the next cycle. Four years go by very quickly. And because of the gap in time between matches, coaches don’t get a lot of time with their team over the course of four years. So if you’re going to stick with someone, you have to give them time.

TheSpun: People often say that if you’re a big guy with just a little athleticism you can be a great goalkeeper. Do you believe that anyone with size and mobility can learn to play your position at a high level?

TH: I think size and mobility are prerequisites of the position. If you add that to 10,000 hours of training, yeah I think that’s a pretty good starting point for being a good goalkeeper. So I somewhat subscribe to that, yeah.

TheSpun: If LeBron James wanted to be a goalkeeper and called on you for advice, what would you tell him?

TH: I’d tell the King “stay on your throne - right where you are.” (laughs) It’s a thankless job being a goalkeeper and I think it’s difficult. You have to have a certain mentality and when you have someone of the stature of LeBron James - you’re the water carrier for everybody. It’s not a superstar position.

TheSpun: Who do you have on the Mt. Rushmore of American soccer?

TH: Good question! I sometimes wish there were more Presidents on Mt. Rushmore to make the question easier. (laughs) I think Landon Donovan of course. Clint Dempsey, without question. Myself. And probably Claudio Reyna.

Landon Donovan celebrating during a game for team USA.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 28: Landon Donovan of USA celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the FIFA Confederations Cup Final between USA and Brazil at the Ellis Park Stadium on June 28, 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

TheSpun: What's your best stadium atmosphere outside of the United States?

TH: Outside the United States it’s (Mexico's Estadio) Azteca because of the rivalry that we have with Mexico. It was such a special and surreal place that, growing up we hear stories that filtered through the media and players of the time. This is mythical and getting the chance to play there and you go “wow.”

TheSpun: And what's your favorite stadium for soccer inside the United States?

TH: In the US, from a national team standpoint, I’d say Columbus (at Historic Crew Stadium). It was the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS and it was really the first time in our history that we could pinpoint a Mecca - a place where WE had the home field advantage - a place where opponents were scared of us. It was cold, it was almost rickety towards the end. England has Wembley, Mexico has Azteca and all of these countries have their home, their Mecca of soccer or football and we never did up until we had the Columbus Crew’s stadium. So for me, that’ll always be a special place.

TheSpun: Lastly, what's your prediction for these final two USMNT games in the group stage?

TH: My predictions for the final two US games are I think we lose to England and beat Iran and I think they go through to the second round (on tiebreakers).

USMNT national anthem

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: The USMNT stands for the national anthem during a FIFA World Cup qualifier game between Panama and USMNT at Exploria Stadium on March 27, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)


You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.