Howard: Not players' job to grow sport

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said it is not the job of the players to develop American soccer.

"I suppose it's talked about in that context where it is on our shoulders to grow the sport. We go out and play a beautiful game -- or at least we try to -- and the supporters are either attracted to that or not," Howard told ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" on Wednesday. "The numbers have been staggering -- people want to watch. That's all we have to do. Go out there and try to win. America loves winners, we know that. So if we can keep winning and keep playing well, the rest of it will take care of itself."

Howard's 16 saves in the Americans' 2-1 extra-time loss to Belgium on Tuesday were the most in a World Cup game in the past 50 years, but it wasn't enough to get the U.S. through to the quarterfinals.

"We're getting closer. It takes time, some of these countries have been playing the game 100 years longer than we have. We need to keep producing young talent, clearly we've shown we can," the 35-year-old Everton goalkeeper said.

The Americans advanced from a difficult group that included Germany, Portugal and Ghana to reach the knockout rounds of consecutive World Cups for the first time. Four years ago, they were also eliminated 2-1 in the round of 16, with the winning goal coming in the third minute of extra time against Ghana.

Although the team has been eliminated in Brazil, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said he believes the future is bright for U.S. Soccer.

"The talent gap is difficult to discuss," Klinsmann said. "We've done well to recruit a lot of good talents and we need to have those competitions to make them grow. They fly home in a couple of days and will realize this is beyond their limits. This is not the Champions League. That experience will help them and we will simply keep building."

Landon Donovan, who was left off this 2014 team, said the United States still has far to go.

"The effort and the attitude and the way the team battled was admirable. But as far as just the pure soccer there were other teams that were ahead of us in that way," Donovan told "Mike & Mike" on Wednesday.

Donovan said Klinsmann, who is under contract through 2018, will need to develop leaders.

"What we have is a lot of young, very talented players -- obviously DeAndre Yedlin, Julian Green yesterday, Aron Johannsson's a young guy who didn't get much time in the tournament, Mix Diskerud is a young kid who didn't get any time in the tournament," Donovan said. "I would say that the part that needs to develop is the leadership part.

"[For 2018] you certainly are going to have Michael Bradley there, that will be a big plus, but losing Timmy [Howard], losing Clint [Dempsey], losing DaMarcus Beasley, losing a guy like Kyle Beckerman, all those things are going to hurt for sure," he said. "And now it's who is going to step up and fill that role in that way? Yes, Michael Bradley will be one and yes, keep your eye out for who else is going to step up in that way if we are going to be successful in 2018."

Asked whether he would consider playing for the U.S. at the World Cup in 2018, Howard said he wasn't sure.

"I was watching some of the videos and I wanna be in the bar throwing beer around when Jozy [Altidore] scores," Howard said. "I need to take stock of where I'm at. With the emotion of last night and this whole six weeks it's hard to put into context. When the dust settles I'll speak to the important people in my decision-making process and have a few conversations and see where we go."

Howard told "The Dan Patrick Show" that he sees himself passing the torch to Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, but repeated that he was not sure about his own plans for 2018.

"Guzan is a top Premier League goalkeeper, his talent is incredible," Howard said. " I don't know [about retirement]. It's a good question. I can barely see next week. I have no idea what that looks like."

Donovan said he was sure Howard would still be around in 2018.

"I don't know about starting," Donovan told "The Dan Patrick Show" on Wednesday. "He is in incredible shape. I think he needs to make sure of that mentally as he could still make the team and help some of the players."

Donovan said he is unsure about retirement.

"I have not made that determination yet," Donovan said. "The team is going to be disappointed and there's going to be a natural changing of the guard," he said, adding that it would depend on Klinsmann.

Howard congratulated the U.S. team again on Wednesday via Twitter.