Christian Pulisic won U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year for 2023, but here’s why 2024 could be even better

After a prolific year for both the U.S. men’s national team and his new club AC Milan, Christian Pulisic collected U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year honors for 2023 on Thursday.

Pulisic picked up the award for the fourth time and is now tied with Landon Donovan for the most all-time wins. He won 53% of the overall vote, while his club and country teammate Yunus Musah finished second with 21.5% of votes and Ricardo Pepi landed in third with 12.9%. U.S. Soccer celebrated Pulisic’s achievement by enlisting “Ted Lasso” star Brendan Hunt to announce the award with a video on social media and set up a Zoom call for Donovan to congratulate the Milan player.

Pulisic scored six goals and notched three assists for the USMNT in 2023 and was the team’s leading goalscorer last year. The individual honor notably comes after a successful career reset for the winger. He wrapped up a four-year spell at Chelsea that was full of injuries, coaching changes and ultimately inconsistent playing time and made the jump to Milan, where he’s been able to mirror his form with the national team so far this season. He has seven goals in all competitions for the Italian side, who currently sit third in the Serie A table.

The club switch has allowed Pulisic to live up to his potential as a top contributor for the USMNT and the leader of a promising group of players and comes at an important time for the national team. Pulisic and company are preparing for June’s Copa America, which will serve as a major test before the U.S. co-hosts the 2026 World Cup.

Here’s a look at Pulisic’s meaningful spell with Milan so far and how it sets up for an important 2024 for him and the national team.

Strong start in Milan

Pulisic slotted into Milan’s lineup quickly on the right side of a front three that includes Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao, and he has been fairly productive to start his stay in Milan.

He has six goals in 18 Serie A games so far this season as well as five assists. He’s within the top 10 of the league for assists and is just two behind the league leader in the category, Inter’s Marcus Thuram. Pulisic is also on a fairly hot streak — he’s overperforming both his expected goals and expected assists tallies, which currently sit at 3.53 and 2.14, respectively.

The USMNT star has also created 23 chances this season and is up to 28 shots, 15 of which are on target. He ranks within Serie A’s top 20 for shots on target this season and boasts a shot on goal percentage of 53.6%. He’s also been an effective passer this season with a passing accuracy of 83.1%.

Bright outlook for the USMNT

Though few players in the USMNT’s current talent pool feel like a strong candidate to overtake Pulisic’s stronghold as a main attacking contributor, the early returns of his time in Milan have breathed new life into his national team career. He’s a deserving mainstay in Gregg Berhalter’s lineup, where he also plays a similar role but on the opposite wing and is easily one of the most consistent of the team’s attackers in recent months.

Pulisic’s strong form takes one complication off of Berhalter’s plate in the run-up to the Copa America, which has been full of experimentation considering the injury list in midfield has led the head coach to play several different lineups since his return to the job in September. Pulisic’s form could serve as a strong foundation for a deep run at the tournament, should his attacking output stay at a high level between now and then.

It will also come in handy if the USMNT is to live up to Pulisic’s aspirations. The winger said in a recent interview that the squad wants to “show the world what we can do” and aspires to win the Copa America, which will be an uphill battle considering the draw and the ongoing injury crisis. If Pulisic continues his impressive run, though, he will give the team as good a shot as one person can to make a noteworthy run — and to be a team to keep an eye on ahead of the 2026 World Cup, where the USMNT are eyeing a statement-making performance at home.

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