U.S. Soccer Team in Limbo Amid Departures and Investigation
The United States men’s soccer team may be forced to navigate much of the coming year, including a series of competitive matches, without a full-time head coach after the departure on Thursday of two top officials threw the already-reeling organization further into turmoil.
Earlier this month, U.S. Soccer announced an investigation into the personal conduct of Gregg Berhalter, who coached the American men to a successful run at the World Cup late last year, after accusations from a disgruntled player’s parents that he physically abused his wife in a decades-old incident.
The team announced it would hold off on deciding whether to retain Berhalter — whose contract expired at the end of 2022 — for another World Cup cycle until the independent investigation reached a conclusion. With the team eager to build off the momentum of the World Cup in Qatar and start preparations for the 2026 tournament, which the United States is co-hosting, those processes were expected to occur in relatively short order.
But on Thursday, U.S. Soccer announced that two other top officials charged with leading the men’s program, the sporting director Earnie Stewart and the national team general manager Brian McBride, would simultaneously step away from their roles. With that, the team’s immediate future became far murkier.
Cindy Parlow Cone, the president of U.S. Soccer, said the organization would employ an outside consulting firm to conduct a wholesale review of its team structure. The new developments, she said, meant the team could be without a sporting director and coach until the end of the summer. Berhalter, she said, remained “a candidate” to coach the national team, but the loss of two key decision makers and the end of his contract — with no end in sight for the investigation — almost certainly will mean the end of his tenure. A U.S. Soccer spokesman confirmed that Berhalter “is no longer a U.S. Soccer employee.”
“We did not plan it this way,” Cone said Thursday. “We find ourselves in this position, and we’re going to take the opportunity to really do a deep dive on our sporting side to make sure we’re as effective and as efficient as possible, because we have grand vision of where we want to go on the sporting side, and we want to make sure we’re the best position to accomplish those goals.”
Stewart, who is taking a job at the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, will stay with the organization through the middle of February. McBride will depart at the end of this month. Both men were former national team players and former teammates of Berhalter.
Cone said that the departures were unrelated to the ongoing investigation of Berhalter, which was triggered when Danielle Reyna, the mother of the star wing Gio Reyna, informed Stewart that Berhalter had hit his wife in an incident in 1991, when the two were dating during college. Reyna and his parents were upset that Berhalter had not given the player much time on the field in the World Cup in Qatar, and that he had made thinly veiled comments about Reyna’s poor attitude — without identifying him — in a speaking engagement after the tournament.
“Gregg remains a candidate,” Cone said of Berhalter’s status. She added, “Ultimately the new sporting director will be tasked with hiring the men’s national team coach.”
Cone said it was possible that the team would move forward without a general manager after the review of the organization’s structure by Sportsology Group, a sports consulting company. She admitted the time needed for the review could lead to uncertainty “for our staff, for players,” but attempted to characterize it as an opportunity.
“What it actually is,” she said, “is a clean canvas.”
The United States team is currently being led by interim coach Anthony Hudson. The group is currently in the middle of a training camp that concludes this Saturday with an exhibition game against Colombia. (It lost to Serbia, 2-1, on Wednesday night.) In March, the team will resume playing competitive matches in March with two games in the CONCACAF Nations League, a regional tournament that serves as a qualifier for this summer’s Gold Cup.