United States men's national team goalkeeper Tim Howard has announced he will take a break from international soccer until next September.
Howard, 35, cited family obligations as the primary reason behind the decision to remove himself from national team consideration on Thursday afternoon.
"As you may have heard, I have decided to take some time off from the U.S. Men's National Team in order to spend more time with my family," Howard said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. "Having played overseas for the last 12 years, making this commitment to my family is very important. I am grateful for the understanding of Jürgen Klinsmann who is affording me the opportunity to spend some much needed time with my kids and to have the opportunity to compete for a spot upon my return."
Klinsmann said he discussed the decision with his longtime number one in the wake of the World Cup and noted the potential ramifications of the decision. Howard will now miss the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and must work his way back into the picture once he makes himself available for selection again at the start of the next European season.
"We had a very good and productive conversation," Klinsmann said in a statement. "I totally understand Tim's situation. He was very straight forward and honest in his approach, and I admire him for that. He has a wish to take a step back to take care of his family, and we came to the conclusion that it's absolutely fine that he takes time off from international soccer until after next summer's Gold Cup, and then we reevaluate. I told him as long as he is the same Tim Howard that we always see performing well, he will be welcome back with open arms and right back competing for a spot. He knows that he has to prove that he deserves to be back."
Howard's decision leaves Klinsmann with Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan as his likely number one for the foreseeable future. A trio of MLS goalkeepers -- Nick Rimando, Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson – are currently behind Guzan in the pecking order.
Guzan, 29, excelled for Villa in trying circumstances last season. He will now have a chance to establish himself as the permanent starter over the next year as Howard focuses on his duties with Everton and his responsibilities at home.
The choice to step away now throws Howard's national team future into some doubt. Guzan is perfectly capable of entrenching himself in the team during Howard's absence, while the fraught nature of Landon Donovan's sabbatical last year ultimately extracted a significant toll on his own national team prospects.
Despite his heroics at this summer's World Cup in Brazil, Howard said he understands he must work his way back into the picture once he makes himself available for selection again.
"I understand that I will have to earn my place with the team and in the lineup when I come back, and I look forward to doing that," Howard wrote. "Physically I feel as strong as ever, and right now my heart, mind, and body all feel good about continuing on with the national team for the next World Cup. It is difficult to predict the situation in four years but I know this decision is right for me today."