19-year-old wunderkind Christian Pulisic talks being the savior of American soccer, playing in Bundesliga, and his love of candy

  • Christian Pulisic rose to fame with the U.S. Men’s National Team, becoming the star of the roster now and the hope for its future.
  • Pulisic, who also plays professionally with Borussia Dortmund, said he has earned the respect of international players with his play.
  • Pulisic said he’ll still watch the World Cup, despite the U.S. failing to qualify and is excited for the future of American soccer.

Christian Pulisic has been called American soccer’s newest star, greatest hope, and even a savior.

The 19-year-old midfielder quickly rose to fame with the U.S. Men’s National Team, becoming the youngest player to play in a World Cup qualifying match, then the youngest player to score in one once he checked into the match.

He became the base of the offense for USMNT and had a strong season with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, scoring four goals with five assists.

Of course, the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup, and Dortmund had an uneven season, though they did qualify for the Champions League. With Premier League transfer rumors around his name and building pressure to lead the U.S. in the next phase, Pulisic has been thrust into the spotlight.

Pulisic spoke to Business Insider to promote a partnership with Hershey’s (Pulisic grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania) in which he debuted the launch of new candy bar Reese’s Outrageous, with a pair Reese’s-inspired cleats. Pulisic talked about managing expectations with American soccer, adjusting to life with Dortmund, and whether he’ll watch the World Cup this summer.

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Scott Davis: Is it cool for you as an international star to now work with Hershey’s, a company that’s just down the road from where you grew up?

Christian Pulisic: “Yeah, I think that’s the coolest part about this whole thing, being such a hometown thing. Getting to finally announce this partnership with Hershey’s, it’s special to me because, I mean, I grew up in Hershey and it’s so close to my heart.”

Davis: It’s a small town – are you the local celebrity now when you return?

Pulisic: “I definitely would say I start to get more recognized, especially in my hometown in Hershey. But it’s awesome, I have so much support from home, especially now starting this with Hersey’s, it’s even better.

Davis: Clearly candy is something of a cheat meal for you – are you strict on your diet otherwise?

Pulisic: “In season I try to keep myself in the best possible shape, but there’s always room for candy [laughs]. That’s something that my mom taught me and I’ll stick by that.”

Davis: What’s your daily in-season diet like?

Pulisic: “I mostly get meals at the training grounds. We have our chefs that cook stuff for us. But good stuff, too, it’s not like super strict. But no, the normal stuff, it’s not like it’s, it’s nothing crazy.

Davis: Do you have any international food that has become a favorite since you’ve been overseas?

Pulisic: “I mean, if you could say like, burritos would probably be a favorite. I don’t know how international it is, but…”

Davis: You’ve had this huge rise through soccer, is there anyone that has helped you along the way to handle all of it?

Pulisic: “My dad is the biggest one, and my parents, I talk to everyday. Whenever I’m too high, they knock me down, and when I’m too low, they bring me up. So, I just have the best support system because my family’s always been there for me.”

Davis: Both of your parents have backgrounds in soccer – are they critiquing you after games or giving you pointers?

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Pulisic: [laughs] “No, I mean, now – my dad used to be my coach for a long time and now he tries to just support me as much as he can. My mom’s the same. But now, of course, whenever I have an issue or something I wanna talk about, I can always talk to my dad because he’s very knowledgeable about the game and he knows me better than anyone. It’s always great to talk to him.

Davis: I know you don’t want to talk about the actual transfer rumors themselves, but how do you handle the press that comes with it and seeing your name mentioned in these rumors?

Pulisic: “Really, I don’t deal with it too much because I kinda focus on myself and do my own thing. I’m not really looking into stuff like that. I’m very focused on what I’m doing in the moment, and I have my small, shorter-term goals that I always work at, so it’s not really a problem for me.”

Davis: Is there anyone internationally that has helped you with that? Anyone on Dortmund who’s been through it?

Pulisic: “Some of my teammates I talk to so much, like Marco Reus, guys like that, who have been through so much within their careers and at young ages and can help me so much. The guys like that are awesome to talk to and have by me.”

Davis: What do some of the international players ask you most about the US or American culture if they haven’t been here before?

Pulisic: “They basically will ask me like, ‘Is it really how it is in movies? Do you guys really party like that?’ They’re like, ‘America’s the best, man.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah to a certain point, but obviously it’s exaggerated.’ I tell them how great it is. Being from America, it’s great, so I always love coming home.”

Davis: I’ve heard other international athletes say when they get to New York they’ve been amazed by the yellow taxi cabs – have any of your teammates had moments like that?

Pulisic: “Yeah, definitely. Some of the staff in Dortmund when we were in LA were taking pictures with like, cop cars and taxis. Because to them it’s like, ‘This is like a movie, it’s so crazy.’ But to me it’s just normal.”

Davis: What’s the international perception of American soccer right now?

Pulisic: “I think guys like me and other guys, you know, around Europe right now are helping us to gain a lot of respect. I think it is tough being an American in Europe. You have to earn a whole nother level of respect which is something I don’t think people realize. But, yeah now that I’m there and I’ve been part of this team, guys respect me and I love playing with them.”

Davis: Was there any rookie hazing when you got to Dortmund?

Pulisic: “Yeah. I think just like any team there was, but I don’t think it’s because I was American or something like that. Just the normal stuff.”

Davis: You’re described as the savior of American soccer and the hope for the future – how do you handle that pressure?

Pulisic: “Of course, sometimes I would love to turn it all off. But I don’t put any of that pressure people in the media or whatever put on me because there’s really no point. I just make sure that I’m still loving the game every single day and that’s all that matters to me.”

Davis: Not to pile on, but for comparison’s sake, LeBron James has the pressure of Cleveland on him. You have the pressure of America. So you just try to block it out as best you can?

Pulisic: “Yeah, of course I try to block it out. I know it’s there, but it’s something I’m used to. It’s something that will always be as an American, that’s how it is. They’re always looking for that next soccer star because we haven’t really – we’ve had a few – but not so many.”

Davis: How would you describe the state of American soccer right now?

Pulisic: “I think we’re definitely in a building year right now. Just looking back on it, not being in the World Cup, unfortunately, gives us a chance to see how we can improve as a country, in our academies, what we can learn. And now I think it’s a cool thing that we’re developing a lot of young players, young players coming to national team camps. And yeah, I think Americans can be excited about the future.”

Davis: Are you still in touch with some of the national team guys or any of the young players coming into the system?

Pulisic: “Yeah, I talk to a lot of the younger guys. I’m in contact especially with the ones in Germany or around Germany, so it’s really cool to see a lot of them, even going to Europe, some of them MLS, and just getting to play and just learning, just like I did. It’s cool to talk to guys and help them, whatever they’re going through, or when I want to talk to them.”

Davis: Do you have any plans for the World Cup? Will you be watching or is it too painful?

Pulisic: “No I’ll definitely watch. I love watching soccer. World Cup’s the best tournament, so I’m looking forward to it.”