World Cup star Tim Howard is taking a break from international soccer and will not be considered for selection to the national team until September 2015, the U.S. soccer federation announced Thursday.
"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, who discussed the break with U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann and Roberto Martinez, his coach at Everton of the English Premier League.
"It's the right decision at this time," Howard said in a statement released by U.S. Soccer. "Juergen 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, 35, emphasized that he was not retiring from the national team. He has been the starting goalkeeper for the U.S. for seven years and is U.S. Soccer's all-time leader with 104 caps and 55 victories. Last week he began his ninth season as the first-choice keeper for Everton.
But, as with Landon Donovan, who took a four-month vacation from soccer at the beginning of World Cup qualifying in 2013, Klinsmann said Howard will have to prove he deserves to be taken back when he returns next year.
"He has a wish to take a step back to take care of his family," Klinsmann said of Howard, whose two school-age children live in Tennessee with his ex-wife. "And we came to the conclusion that it's absolutely fine that he takes off time 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 welcomed 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 could miss as many as eight U.S. friendlies during his break as well as the 2015 Gold Cup. In his place, World Cup backups Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando are expected to compete for the starting job for the U.S.