(Reuters) - U.S national team goalkeeper Tim Howard says he will take a year off from international duty in order to spend more time with his family.
Howard, who will continue to play in England’s Premier League with Everton, has been capped 104 times by the U.S. and was the starting goalkeeper in the last two World Cups.
In a statement distributed by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Thursday, Howard, 35, said he had told U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann that he would not be available for national team selection until September 2015, meaning he would miss next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“Having played overseas for the last 12 years and missing out on spending time with my family, making this commitment to my family is very important at this time,” said Howard.
“It’s the right decision at the right time. Jurgen has always been up front with all the players in saying you have to earn your place, which is something I agree with, so I look forward to coming back next fall and competing for a spot.”
Howard’s absence will open the way for Aston Villa keeper Brad Guzan to become first choice keeper while Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando, who was the third keeper at the World Cup in Brazil, could also get chances to start.
“This gives us a huge opportunity to see Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando going forward and fighting for the number one spot,” said Klinsmann.
“We have young talented goalkeepers with Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, who have been brought along the last couple years, so this may give them a chance here and there to get some game time.”
Klinsmann said that after a “productive conversation” he understood Howard’s situation but made it clear that the keeper would have to fight to get his spot back.
“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 will be 39 when the next World Cup will be held in Russia in 2018.
Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami, editing by Gene Cherry