Howard believes his side have grown in stature since finishing bottom of their group in Germany in 2006 and says the US will no longer be seen as World Cup outsiders.
"I think we've gotten better," he said. "I think that has shown in the last month and certainly in the last year with the Confederations Cup. We've gotten better but still have a long way to go.
"I think it's about seizing the opportunity when we get it. We had good opportunities, we felt like, in all the games. We were certainly right in the thick of it and I think that's the next level for US soccer.
"Before, it was always being the underdog and I think if you look at the last four games we were right in the thick of them. We need to get to the point where we can start dictating the tempo and telling other teams to get on our playing field."