Tim Howard has announced that he will retire from professional soccer at the end of the 2019 MLS season.
The Colorado Rapids goalkeeper made the announcement via his Twitter account.
I'm greatly looking forward to kicking off the 2019 MLS season, as it will be my LAST. There will be plenty of time for sentiment later. For now, I am going to enjoy every minute. And as I've always done, compete hard and help lead the Rapids with the sole purpose of winning. pic.twitter.com/QWuCcy7gW2— Tim Howard (@TimHowardGK) January 22, 2019
Howard, 39, will go down in U.S. soccer history as one of the country's all-time greats, a considerable feat given the regularity with which the country has produced top-class goalkeepers.
"It's been one heck of a ride," Howard told reporters on Tuesday. "This is something that's been on my radar for a number of years now, probably since I signed with Colorado. I knew that the length of the contract would take me to being 40, and it seemed like the right time. I've always had my sights set on this, and there are other things I want to do.
"For a lot of those reasons I wanted to make sure that this would be the end. The timing just makes a lot of sense to do it now before the season to get that out of the way so that it's not a distraction. That's what's most important to me. I feel great. It's not something I thought about last night. It's a decision I've been very comfortable with for quite a long time in my own head and heart. I feel good."
The North Brunswick, New Jersey, native began his professional career in 1997 with the North Jersey Imperials of what is now the United Soccer League. He moved to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of MLS the next year, spending parts of six seasons with the club before securing a transfer to Manchester United in 2003.
Howard endured an up-and-down tenure during his three seasons with the Red Devils. He was initially the starter, and was the hero in United's Charity Shield triumph over Arsenal. But a series of uneven performances, including an error that resulted in United being eliminated from the UEFA Champions League against Porto, saw him lose his starting spot to Roy Carroll. Howard rebounded, and won a winner's medal later that season in the 2004 FA Cup final against Millwall. He was also named in the Professional Footballers' Association Best XI that year.
Howard eventually lost his spot to Carroll and later Edwin van der Sar. As a result, Howard went on loan to Everton for the 2006-07 season, with the loan made permanent in February 2007. He went on to become a mainstay for the Toffees, making more than 400 league and cup appearances over 10 seasons. In 2016, he returned to MLS, where he has spent the past three campaigns with the Rapids, making 57 league and playoff appearances.
Howard excelled at the international level as well. He made 121 appearances for the U.S. national team and was part of three World Cup sides. At the 2014 World Cup, Howard delivered a stellar performance in the 2-1 round of 16 defeat to Belgium, making 15 saves. He was also part of two Gold Cup-winning sides in 2007 and 2017. Howard was part of the team that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but he remains one of the top players the U.S. has produced.
"I think overall, from a football purist standpoint, if you broke that [Belgium] game down, it's probably the greatest game I've played in," Howard said. "Not only my own performance but Julian Green taking his goal, [Chris Wondolowski] got a great chance at the end. When you talk about the game of all games, it was colossal."
Howard, who has ownership stakes in USL Championship side Memphis 901 FC and English fifth-tier outfit Dagenham & Redbridge, was adament that his post-playing plays will not involve a coaching career.
"I can tell you this wholeheartedly. If someone got me to coach a bunch of professional athletes, they'd have to pay me probably more money than is in the U.S. Treasury because it's not a job that I would enjoy in any way, shape or form," Howard said. "It's difficult, it's time consuming, you get very little of the glory, and all of the pain. It's not something I even think about. I would never go near coaching."