In an interview with Bolavip, Tony Meola criticized the lack of a plan or direction in what he called the most important five years in the Federation’s history.
“This is it, right here,” Meola said. “We have to get it right, and we are wasting time right now.”
By wasting time, Meola refers to the lack of a head coach, general manager or sporting director for the USMNT and US Soccer. Former coach Gregg Berhalter remains under investigation from US Soccer, while Brian McBride and Earnie Stewart departed the Federation early in 2023. The 2026 World Cup in the United States is not only close, but it is arguably the biggest moment for the United States in soccer.
Meola says it could be nine months or more before this talented squad that reached the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup actually has a direction. Even then, there will be time to adjust to a national team position unlike others.
“It looks like we are going to lose probably around nine months, where we don’t have a coach scouting the players that he wants,” Meola said. “Whoever it is it will take that person at least four of five months to start to figure it all out, that’s why I think our saving grace is that we are already qualified.
“Overall picture it’s not a great place to be in. They can sell me on the clean slate all they want, we don’t have a national team coach.”
Meola says US Soccer should likely hire domestically
The former USMNT goalkeeper recalled his days around US Soccer after his playing days. It inspired him to think that US Soccer must change its policy for a number of reasons.
One of those is the fact that US Soccer mandates the head coach live in Chicago to be close to the Federation’s headquarters.
“When you ask people to move to a city to do this job, you eliminate 95% of your candidates,” Meola added. “Coaches don’t want to sit in a room and talk, coaches want to scout players, go see games live, they want to be in camp.
“US Soccer is so reluctant to change one thing, and it makes zero sense to me.”
Part of what makes US Soccer stand out is that it is different from many other international jobs based on how it operates.
“I think [US Soccer is] going to need to go within [MLS] because minimum that person understand the mentality of how things are done here,” Meola said.
Therefore, Meola recommended names such as Jim Curtin, Peter Vermes or even former USMNT head coach Tab Ramos, who admittedly is a friend of Meola. Ramos did invite former USMNT players to visit the current players, allowing young talents to ask about World Cup experience and get comfortable.
Meola was also hesitant to go after other rumored names such as Marcelo Bielsa, Jose Mourinho or even Jesse Marsch. Either those managers have not had recent success, or they do not fit the general theme of the United States.
Filling the coaching role
US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone says the first step is landing a sporting director. That way that person can help oversee the hiring process for the USMNT. However, she estimates the sporting director role may go unfilled until the Women’s World Cup this summer.
Other nations without head coaches after the World Cup, namely Portugal, Belgium, Mexico and more, have already filled vacancies. The USMNT could be the last with a number of major competitions on the near horizon.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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