Christian Pulisic is the great hope for American soccer. The 22-year-old from Hershey, PA is experiencing success at the highest levels of professional European soccer. In the process, he doing things that few American “footballers” have ever done.
At 17, “Captain America” became the youngest US-born player to ever play in the German Bundesliga at the time. At 20, the forward’s $73 million transfer to Chelsea became the most money ever paid for an American.
On Saturday, Pulisic tried to make more history by becoming one of two Americans to win England’s prestigious FA Cup.
The FA Cup is the oldest competition in English soccer
The Football Association Challenge Cup, or simply the FA Cup, is the oldest soccer competition in the world, according to The Guardian. It was first contested in 1871 and quickly became the most significant trophy in English soccer. It is often described as the English version of America’s Super Bowl.
The competition is open to teams that play in all ten levels of English soccer. The competition doesn’t really heat up though until the English Premier League clubs at the highest level of the sport join the competition in the later rounds.
With teams from all over English soccer, the tournament has seen some incredibly famous upsets. The most renowned upset came in 1953 when tiny Blackpool upset English giant Manchester United.
More often than not, however, the best teams in the country win the Cup. Arsenal, United, and Chelsea have won the most FA Cups in tournament history.
Only two Americans have ever won the FA Cup
Only one American man and one American woman have ever lifted the FA Cup. The first to do it was US goalkeeper Tim Howard in 2004. In Howard’s first year at Manchester United, the New Jersey native started in goal for the FA Cup Final match against Millwall.
Millwall was a lower-level team that made a Cinderella run to the final in ’04. United made easy work of the overmatched squad and won 3-0 to make Howard the first American to receive an FA Cup medal.
On the Woman’s side, another Garden Stater, Carli Lloyd, became the second American to help her side win the trophy. Lloyd went on loan from the Houston Dash to Manchester City for the end of the 2017 season. That year, the USWNT hero helped lead City to their first-ever Women’s FA Cup by scoring a goal in the team’s 4-1 win over Birmingham City.
Leicester City upset Chelsea to deny Pulisic and company the trophy
Pulisic didn’t start the FA Cup Final for Chelsea against Leicester City. Manager Thomas Tuchel went with Englishman Mason Mount and Moroccan international Hakim Ziyech on the wings instead.
Tied at half, Leister City midfielder Youri Tielemans gave his side the lead with a wonder strike from well outside the 18-yard box in the 63rd minute. After falling behind, Tuchel quickly sent Pulisic into the game in the 68th minute.
In the 90th minute, it looked like Chelsea evened the score when a former Leicester City defender now playing for Chelsea, Ben Chilwell, scored. However, in a heartbreaking moment for Chelsea fans, referee Michael Oliver went to the video assistant referee (VAR) and disallowed the goal for offsides.
Leicester City held their lead in extra time and won the FA Cup for the first time in club history.
Tuchel will have to answer questions following the match as to why Pulisic and fellow young star Kai Havertz didn’t start the game or get put in sooner. No matter the answer, the fact remains that Pulisic will have to wait another year to see if he can join Howard and Lloyd in American soccer history.
Pulisic will have a chance to make even bigger American soccer history soon though. In a few weeks, he can become just the second American man ever to win a UEFA Champions League Final (Jovan Kirovski won with Borussia Dortmund in 1997) when Chelsea takes on Manchester City for this international title on Saturday, May 29.
All stats courtesy of Sports Reference