Tim Howard still plans to return to USMNT in September, fight for 2018 World Cup spot

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Don’t call it a comeback, because he left on his own accord, but Tim Howard is still planning a comeback return to the U.S. national team later this year, and is even eyeing up a place on the USMNT’s 2018 World Cup roster.

[ RECAP: Netherlands 3-4 USA in Amsterdam ]

Howard, who last summer began a self-imposed international hiatus in order to spend more time with his family, was quoted on Everton’s official website this week, reaffirming his plans to return to the national team for which he’s made 104 appearances.

Though he’ll be 39 at the start of the next World Cup, Howard has spoken on multiple occasions about his desire to make his fourth World Cup team.

Howard, on his USMNT return this fall, from Everton’s website:

“After I spoke with Jurgen, I just decided to take this year off and then come back into the fold if I was fit, healthy and playing next September.

“I’ll integrate myself back into the team if they will still have me and go from there and see what happens.

“I wanted more time with my family as I wanted more time out with my children and, to be honest, it’s been a great decision.”

“It’s not easy in America as soccer is not the number one sport as it is everywhere else in the world. But it’s come on leaps and bounds and I think what people appreciate about the US team is we’re never really out of any game. We’re a bunch of guys who graft, work hard and don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘no’.

“One of the things Jurgen Klinsmann is not afraid to do is try young talent and throw them in at the deep end to see if they swim and can handle the pressure of playing in the international team. Jurgen really believes in building US soccer – not just the men’s team but producing crops of players who can contribute and I think he’s been brilliant so far.”

Brad Guzan has filled the role of U.S. No. 1 goalkeeper quite capably in Howard’s absence, starting the majority of games for which he’s available, though Guzan’s club situation is currently very much up in the air after being benched the last six weeks of the 2014-15 season. Many signs point toward the 30-year-old leaving Aston Villa this summer, with his destination currently unknown.

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Nick Rimando has also started a handful of games since last summer, but the longtime No. 3 ‘keeper is five years Guzan’s senior and figures to remain behind him in the pecking order for this summer’s Gold Cup.

If Howard is called back into USMNT camp this fall, one would assume he would enter as the No. 2 or No. 3 with Guzan holding onto the starting spot. Landon Donovan famously took a self-imposed sabbatical of his own in 2013, and upon returning to the U.S. squad helped lift that summer’s Gold Cup before being cut from the 2014 World Cup a year later.