SWOL Exclusive: Brian McBride discusses life as a member of the USMNT


Former Columbus Crew player Brian McBride-Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

As a United States Men’s National Team legend and one of the greatest American soccer players to ever grace the pitch in Europe, Brian McBride is a household name for any soccer loving family in the country.

SWOL columnist Aaron West sat down with Brian McBride, who graciously took time out of his busy schedule, to ask him a few questions about his long career, experiences abroad and his time with the USMNT.

Aaron West: How tough was it to grow up in the 1980′s as a soccer player without a top-level pro league in the US?

Brian McBride: Growing up I didn’t really realize the aspect of playing professional soccer. So, for me, it was about fun, and was something I really enjoyed and was passionate about. That’s what drove me. I was trying to be better with my friends, trying to do as much as I could to improve in that aspect. I didn’t really see an end product.

AW: When did you begin to see soccer as a viable career prospect? 

BM: I didn’t realize the potential until my sophomore year of high school. I thought, “oh my gosh, this is something I really love to do, and something I could do professionally.” So I said, you know what? I’m going to take a language, and I decided to take German because that was really the only soccer on TV at that time. I took German for around a year and then said “this isn’t for me!”

I really started to think about the possibility of it being a real career my sophomore year of college. My coach talked to about possibly getting me a tryout here and there, and I started to think: “You know what? This might actually be something that I can do.”

I finished my four years of soccer at St. Louis and left with a semester of school to go. One of my teammates from previous years was in Milwaukee playing, and he basically put the connection together and Boro Susovic said “great, let’s have him!” I went up there right after school stopped and that was where I was until I went to Germany.

 AW: How did your time at Wolfsburg mold you as a young American soccer player?

 BM: That year was a growing year. It allowed me to really realize that as much as I love soccer, I didn’t want it to just be soccer. It gave the basis to learn how to be a professional, and what it required to actually be a professional soccer player. The game itself was the biggest challenge.

There are a lot of things where everyone is an individual trying to be more important, and the professional side opened my eyes to the fact that it’s about a living. There are different individuals who think about the game differently. The biggest thing I took away from Wolfsburg was that you need to make sure that you do the best you can but still be yourself.

The biggest thing that impacted me most was that it’s a profession just like anything else. No matter what you do, there will be people who will cut your throat and walk by you, and there will be people who will pick you up and do whatever they can to help you. It very much stuck with me. 

AW: You earned your first cap in 93, how did it feel stepping on the pitch in a USMNT uniform?

BM: I never really considered that my “first” cap. At the time I had been in with the “B” team, and we had been doing really well with some great results so there was pressure to bring some players in from that team. Aat the same time they had the 94 World Cup coming up. They had guys that were in residency, so we got called in for that. From that, when I played (for the first time), Bora (Milutinovic) wasn’t even there. So for me, it wasn’t a significant cap. I consider my first real cap the Scotland game. 

AW: What were some of the biggest difficulties in your early days with the US Men’s National team?

BM: I think it was about me finding a way to be part of a team that was very good, a team that was already solidified, and a group of players that had gotten really good results. It was about making sure that you provided something that was not already there. By no means was I someone that was always called in or always picked. 

AW: Today’s national team is surrounded by media coverage with ESPN, multiple players who play in top leagues around the world, and just the generally higher profile of soccer in the US. What do you think the biggest differences are with the USMNT now and in your era? 

BM: I think at the core, there is more interest in the team, and that’s great, that’s what we want. I think the awareness is higher, soccer is more available, and it has everything to do with the fact that players nowadays are very good, and they’re drawing more attention to the team.

AW: You made the decision to come back from England to play in MLS for one last time. What did it mean to you to be able to play in your hometown of Chicago to end your career? 

BM: The Fire has a huge tradition, but I’m not going to lie it was very hard to not end my career in Columbus. However, it became more of a family decision. My wife and I are both from the same area, and we wanted our kids to have the same experiences we grew up with. We knew that we could probably have the same experiences in Columbus, as it’s a great city, but it was more about family. All of her family is here, and most of my family is here, so it came down to that.

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