The USMNT had a respectable showing at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The side achieved relatively what was expected of them, no more, no less. Coming out of the World Cup, hopes would have been high for the next World Cup cycle. With a rising crop of talent to choose from and co-hosting responsibilities for that tournament, excitement and expectations continued to rise.
Yet, fans were treated to a farce from the US Soccer Federation. A frustrated soccer mom orchestrated a debacle based on the way USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter treated her son.
US soccer became a laughing stock around the world after Danielle Reyna outed Berhalter for something that occurred over 30 years ago. Since then, the national team sought a new head coach. Berhalter remains a candidate for the USMNT manager role through 2026, even though his contract expired after Qatar 2022. Still, it would be a public relations nightmare to bring Berhalter back in. Anthony Hudson holds the temporary reins, and he will for the foreseeable future. However, the USSF is extremely bureaucratic, taking long periods to make the most basic decisions. It likely takes them several meetings to decide on what to have for lunch.
Instead of hiring a coach, US Soccer wants to hire a new sporting director who will then hire a general manager who will then hire a USMNT coach. Expectations set by US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone is that a new head coach may be hired by the end of this summer.
Between now and then, the USMNT play the Continental Clásico against Mexico in April, as well as the Concacaf Nations League semi-final against El Tri in June. Then, our national team competes in the Concacaf Gold Cup from June 24 to July 16. Meanwhile it appears that the US Soccer Federation are twiddling their thumbs.
The federation’s slow pace is preventing a national team coach from assuming the role. Consequently, the youthful US side is not getting the proper preparation for the biggest World Cup appearance since 1994. Fittingly, that is the last time the United States hosted. The USMNT cannot afford to fail in just over three years. Soccer’s growth in the country is at unprecedented levels, and the USSF must make the most of the competition. It must strike while the iron is hot. Or, it faces losing out on more growth within the crowded American sports landscape.
US Soccer continues to drag its feet
First off, the USSF wants to implement a new sporting director to oversee both the men’s and women’s national teams. Secondly, the organization wants to add a general manager to the fold to work directly with the men’s team. The slow, snail’s pace at which the USMNT will finally get a full-time coach could see the best options unavailable. Both the sporting director and general manager must agree on the candidate before the new coach is hired, further pushing back a coach taking up the role.
The hiring process for a new sporting director, much less a head coach, could take until June or July of 2023. Add on the time to nail down a head coach, and the hiring process may not conclude until the end of this year.
International soccer is completely different from club soccer. A federation cannot just plug in any manager to lead a national team. Oftentimes, national team coaches are specialists in the international game. For example, Argentina won the 2022 World Cup with a coach who had never managed at the club level. In fact, he only retired as a player in 2015.
The new World Cup cycle is already underway. Continental competition is in place with the Nations League or other qualifying games across the globe. By the time US Soccer is ready to fill the head coach void, many of the top options will be off the board.
Lack of manager could doom USMNT in 2026
Hudson will likely get the job but not because he is the best coach for the position. Rather, he is the only one left for the USSF to appoint. Soccer is not a patient sport, especially at the international level. Coaches won’t wait for the USSF to hire a sporting director and general manager before choosing a job elsewhere regardless of just how promising the USMNT position is. A national team coach needs time to implement their tactics, philosophy, and energy into the role. There is no time to waste.
Hudson wouldn’t be the first interim coach to get the USMNT job on a full-time basis. Bob Bradley took on the interim role after the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The USMNT crashed and burned at the tournament in Germany, with Bruce Arena leaving the role. After winning three out of four games as head coach, US Soccer gave Bradley the full-time gig in early 2007.
But there is no urgency on the part of the USSF. Earnie Stewart and Brian McBride left their posts in late January. The USSF hasn’t made any new announcements, as Sportsology, a company hired to “analyze the structure” of the organization, kills time dissecting aspects of the organization that likely have little to do with a head coach.
A sporting director should be in the office by the time the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in July, according to the USSF. That is over three months away and three more months of wasted time. Some of the proposed names to fill the spot turned it down. That includes Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes, and Philadelphia Union’s Ernst Tanner. Both are candidates because they have familiarity with the US Soccer landscape. An important, but perhaps not vital, qualification.
If Hudson doesn’t get the full-time job or Berhalter doesn’t regain it, then it is anyone’s guess who will be the next USMNT manager come 2026. Failure in that World Cup could come down to the USSF and its poor handling of hiring a new USMNT head coach in 2023.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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