Former United States internationalist Steve Pittman believes the Stars and Stripes could go all the way in Brazil, as they are strong enough to hold their own against every other side left in the World Cup.
Pittman, manager of junior outfit Broxburn Athletic, will cheer on the US when they face Belgium in their last-16 clash in Salvador on Tuesday.
The 46-year-old, who was born in North Carolina to an American father and a Scottish mother, made 11 appearances for the US national team in the 1990s and even came close to a World Cup call-up himself.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side have surpassed most expectations so far to get out of a group containing Germany, Portugal and Ghana, and Pittman is backing them to go even further.
He said: “I think they were really unlucky in the Portugal game when they lost a goal in the last minute. I don’t think America are any pushovers anymore. They are as strong a team as any in the World Cup.
“I think there have been that many surprises this year that anything could happen.”
Pittman, below, is adamant the root of their success – they also reached the last 16 at the 2010 World Cup – lies in the growth of the sport in the country, which he saw first hand during the time he spent there as a player and which he insists will only get bigger.
“When I was over there playing, the young kids that were coming through looked really good,” he explained. “I always said they’d have a really good side.
“Now the MLS has kicked off so much – there are that many people playing over there now and supporting it – they’ll just go from strength to strength.
“You look at the size of America compared to England and I think they’ll just kick on and get stronger.
“They are definitely getting the support now. When I was over there that was the one thing they weren’t getting as much of.”
Pittman, who moved to Scotland as a child, began his professional career at East Fife before joining Shrewsbury Town in 1989 where he played alongside David Moyes in defence for the Division Three club.
While at Shrewsbury, Pittman earned his first call-up to the US national side, when he made a pool of 40 players for the training camp ahead of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
He didn’t make the final squad of 22, but went on to play for the national side after the tournament, earning three full caps. The remainder of his appearances were in friendlies after the American Professional Soccer League disbanded in 1996 and the national side “signed” over 20 players to maintain their fitness.
Pittman admits the call-up took him by surprise, but he was gutted not to make the final cut. “I was playing with Shrewsbury and next thing I got a call to go to a training camp in California. It was completely out of the blue,” he recalled. “It was a good experience, it’s just a pity I never made the squad for the World Cup.”
Pittman did earn a move to the United States on the back of being a member of the training camp, however, joining Fort Lauderdale Strikers, where he spent two seasons before moving back to Scotland to join Dundee.
The left-back moved to Partick Thistle in 1994, spending two seasons at Firhill before moving back to the United States to join MLS side Tampa Bay Mutiny, where he linked up with a football icon.
Colombian Carlos Valderrama played alongside Pittman for a year at Mutiny, the flamboyant midfielder playing a key role in lifting the profile of the league and leaving a lasting impression on his team-mate. “He was different class,” said Pittman. “The best I’ve ever played with, just a joy to watch at times.”
Pittman later moved to MLS rivals Kansas City Wizards, before moving back to Scotland to end his playing career at Clydebank, Stenhousemuir, Linlithgow Rose and latterly Pumpherston, before moving into management.