Jesse Marsch is available for the taking, but US Soccer’s convoluted hiring process may mean the American misses out on becoming the next USMNT head coach.

Earlier this week, Leeds sacked Marsch after a poor run that has Leeds back in the relegation scrap this season. While American soccer fans may be disappointed to see the American squad at Leeds take a hit, the sacking opened up a major opportunity for US Soccer. The USMNT remains without a head coach. In fact, it is without a sporting director, general manager and head coach. In other words, the USMNT is seemingly riding without a direction.

Jesse Marsch seems like a logical fit for that role. He has experience as a coach in the Premier League, Bundesliga and Champions League over his last two jobs. He comes from the school of Red Bull’s coaching philosophy, meaning he has a plan in place. Effectiveness of that plan came under scrutiny at Leeds and RB Leipzig, though.

Worse off, US Soccer may delay hiring Jesse Marsch, a trend for the federation in bringing in a new head coach. If US Soccer fails to lay out a plan, it may miss out on one of the more promising American managers to coach the game.

Not pulling the trigger

When US Soccer parted ways with Brian McBride and Earnie Stewart, it said its priority would be locating a sporting director to replace Stewart. The incoming sporting director would then play a role in picking the next head coach.

However, Cindy Parlow Cone, the president of US Soccer, stated she only hopes to name a new sporting director before the Women’s World Cup this summer. That, on its own, is five months away. The search for a head coach would then likely go beyond that.

Unfortunately, the laborious hiring process of trying to appoint a technical director, who will then hire a general manager, who will then decide on a national men’s head coach is cumbersome. Moving at a snail’s pace to make hiring decisions is misguided. That’s especially true in the topsy-turvy world of club management where head coaches may be available for a short window before they move on to their next job.

This is not the first instance for US Soccer waiting until the eleventh hour to bring in a head coach. Following the 2006 World Cup, Sunil Gulati began his first head coaching search for the USMNT as President of US Soccer. The Federation did not have any remaining coaches from the previous staff as Gulati and his crew scoured the world for coaches. None of the candidates bit, and Bob Bradley got the job on an interim basis. Bradley also took over the U-23 squad, as there was no one overseeing that. A win against Mexico and other results clinched a permanent role.

Over that time, without any coaches from the end of the World Cup in 2006 through late in the year, the USMNT did not play any games. World Soccer Talk’s Kartik Krishnaiyer says the time it took would be unacceptable for other countries. Also, 2023 brings more challenges.

“The entire process took longer than would be acceptable in other nations,” said Krishnaiyer. “And the US in 2023 faces a similar dilemma. Although, a key difference is the USMNT maintaining a full schedule of matches during the process unlike in 2006.”

Interim head coach Anthony Hudson is coaching the side through friendlies and potentially into the CONCACAF Nations League.

A worthwhile gamble for US Soccer on Jesse Marsch

This is arguably the most important three-year stretch in the history of the USMNT. Not only is talent and potential rife throughout the squad, but it is poised for a number of major competitions. The CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup are nothing new. However, the United States is hosting the World Cup in 2026.

It is highly unlikely Anthony Hudson will be the head coach then. Of course, if a couple of results go his way and he can lead the USMNT to success, he could get the Bob Bradley treatment in 2006. Even then, Jesse Marsch is sitting there for the taking.

Not only does he have experience of Europe, he understands the system of American soccer. Marsch played in MLS for the entirety of his 13-year playing career. Then, Marsch managed Montreal before he coached the New York Red Bulls for four seasons. Even then, he had a stint as an assistant coach with the USMNT under Bob Bradley.

Marsch is amongst names like Zinedine Zidane, Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho when it comes to the rumor mill for USMNT coaches. Those are elite names, yes, but perhaps not the right names.

Former USMNT goalkeeper Brad Friedel wrote in his column for the Daily Mail the importance of hiring an American for these positions.

“Pep is great, he is phenomenal, so is Zinedine Zidane. But the system over here, and I don’t mean playing system, is different, and it has to be someone who knows it inside and out and can come in, make the team competitive and make the players he has available better,” Friedel wrote.

“Our system of soccer in the United States is different, vastly different, and it takes the best of the best a minimum two years to learn the lay of the land here,” added Friedel. “Then they are going to want to instill their own differences to the system and we are supposed to be getting a team together to compete at a high level for 2026.”

Time ticking away

Jesse Marsch could be that person for US Soccer. Still, if US Soccer holds true on that belief to wait until a sporting director is in place, Marsch will almost certainly be unavailable.

There are examples of top coaches remaining unemployed after being sacked. Mauricio Pochettino has been without a job since the end of last season with PSG. Chelsea sacked Thomas Tuchel fairly early on this year. Neither of those names is swirling around.

However, in all likelihood, both of those managers, as well as Jesse Marsch, may have a job before next season. That could be anywhere in the world, but clubs and nations tend to be drawn to these names with experience at top clubs and in top competitions.

If US Soccer continues to hold out on hiring, it could lose its chance for an American coach like the caliber of Jesse Marsch.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Action Plus