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Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

US Soccer fires men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter | WFAE 90.7

By meerna Jul11,2024
US Soccer fires men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter | WFAE 90.7

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that it has fired Gregg Berhalter as head coach of the U.S. men’s national soccer team.

Berhalter’s dismissal comes after the men’s national team’s disappointing finish at this year’s Copa América, the last major international tournament before the country co-hosts the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The move ushers in a major shakeup for the U.S. team amid lofty ambitions for another World Cup. With less than two years to go until the tournament begins, U.S. Soccer — and the incoming men’s national team coach — face a daunting task of preparing a team that can live up to the expectations of the world’s biggest sporting event.

“I want to thank Gregg for his hard work and dedication to US Soccer and our men’s national team,” said US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone, who added that federation officials will now work to “find the right person to lead the USMNT into a new era of on-pitch success.”

The U.S. men’s national team has long struggled on the international stage. The men’s best finish in the modern FIFA World Cup era was a quarterfinal appearance in 2002.

But with the U.S. co-hosting the 2026 tournament with Canada and Mexico, there were high hopes that Berhalter would lead the U.S. to an equal quarterfinal result — or better. This year’s Copa América was seen as his team’s last major opportunity to gain experience in a high-level international tournament before 2026, and the 11th-place U.S. was widely expected to at least reach the quarterfinals, if not the semifinals.

Instead, the U.S. was eliminated in the group stage, managing only a win over lowly Bolivia, ranked 84th in the international rankings, before suffering a devastating defeat to 43rd-ranked Panama, partly due to an uncharacteristic red card for winger Tim Weah early in the game that forced the U.S. to play shorthanded for most of the match. Then, on July 1, the U.S. lost again to 14th-ranked Uruguay.

“We are very disappointed with the results. We know we can do better. And we didn’t show that in this tournament. It’s really that simple,” Berhalter said at a news conference after the loss to Uruguay.

When asked if he is still the right person to lead the team to the 2026 World Cup, Berhalter replied with one word: “Yes.”

Then-USA head coach Gregg Berhalter applauds fans after the team's defeat to the Netherlands at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Then-USA head coach Gregg Berhalter applauds fans after the team’s defeat to the Netherlands at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

But as the days passed, calls grew for Berhalter to be removed as coach, including from former USMNT stars Clint Dempsey, who said after the match that Berhalter was “wasting” the current generation of players. The American Outlaws, an organized group of American soccer fans, said in a statement that the U.S. “cannot miss this incredible opportunity to make a lasting impact on the game of soccer in this country” by allowing Berhalter to remain as coach through the end of the World Cup.

His dismissal caps a difficult period for Berhalter. After the U.S. team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he was brought in to coach the team. He helped rebuild the squad with new, younger players and led them through the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where the team reached the knockout stage but was defeated by the Netherlands in the round of 16.

Berhalter’s original contract expired that same year. Shortly after the team’s World Cup loss, U.S. Soccer opened an investigation into Berhalter after an allegation of domestic violence emerged, stemming from a 1991 incident between Berhalter and the woman who would become his wife outside a North Carolina bar while both were freshmen at the University of North Carolina.

The accusation, it was later revealed, came from the parents of promising U.S. national team player Gio Reyna, who played very little during the tournament in Qatar. Reyna’s parents — former U.S. national team star Claudio Reyna and women’s national team player Danielle Reyna — were longtime friends of the Berhalters.

Months after the investigation began, U.S. Soccer cleared Berhalter, and he was eventually reappointed as coach. He has a combined record of 44-17-13 in 74 games as head coach of the team.

Following the U.S. team’s early exit from this month’s Copa America — the first-ever tournament held in the United States — there have been renewed calls for its removal.

In its announcement, U.S. Soccer said the federation “is committed to doing what is necessary to ensure our success on the pitch and we are committed to cultivating a culture that leads to winning.” The search for a new coach has already begun, the statement added.

Speculation over who could become the team’s next coach has included outgoing Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, Canada coach Jesse Marsch and Los Angeles FC coach Steve Cherundolo.

Copyright 2024 NPR

By meerna

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