Gregg Berhalter fired as USMNT head coach

U.S. Soccer has fired men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter, one week after the USMNT crashed out of the 2024 Copa América, according to a Wednesday report from Fox Sports. A U.S. Soccer announcement is expected shortly.

Berhalter departs after five years on the job, over two separate stints, the first of which was reasonably successful. But throughout the first 10 months of his second stint, it became clear that the USMNT had stagnated.

As the team trudged toward an earlier-than-expected Copa América exit, fans chanted: "Fire Gregg!" At least two official U.S. supporters' groups, the American Outlaws and Barra 76, soon called for Berhalter's ouster.

After what it called a "comprehensive" post-tournament review, U.S. Soccer, led by sporting director Matt Crocker, relieved Berhalter of his duties.

They will now search for a replacement to lead the USMNT toward and at the 2026 World Cup, which the United States is co-hosting, and which represents an opportunity to, as Berhalter would often say, "change soccer in America forever."

Fans will fantasize about a big-name hire, such as Jürgen Klopp, who recently left Liverpool and said he "probably will not be a manager again." Others who'll be mentioned include Thierry Henry and Mauricio Pochettino.

Among the more reasonable candidates would be domestic coaches like Steve Cherundolo or experienced international coaches like Hervé Renard, the Frenchman who has said he will leave the France women's national team after the upcoming Olympics because he is eying a third men's World Cup. (He coached Morocco and Saudi Arabia at the last two.)

Berhalter, meanwhile, will most likely return to club soccer, in MLS or abroad. He also could look for another national team job outside the U.S.

He first took charge of the USMNT in December 2018, one year after its modern-era nadir, the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. In his first year on the job, he struggled to adapt to the international game, and to fill gaps in a player pool that had arguably sunk to its weakest point in over a decade. The U.S. lost to Jamaica and Venezuela that June; lost to Mexico in the Gold Cup final; got embarrassed by Mexico in a friendly two months later, and then by Canada in the CONCACAF Nations League a month after that.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and a mostly empty 2020. By the time international soccer fully resumed, those gaps in the player pool had begun to fill in. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams had matured. Gio Reyna, Tim Weah and eventually others emerged. A so-called "golden generation" took shape.

To some extent, it fell into Berhalter's lap. But he also worked intentionally to usher it into the national team and build strong chemistry, a "brotherhood," within it and around it. He recruited multi-nationals like Sergiño Dest and Yunus Musah to join it. In June 2021, they broke through, beating Mexico in a chaotic Nations League final — the first of what would become three consecutive titles in that competition, and the first of seven games unbeaten against their archrival.

In World Cup qualifiers beginning that fall, they wobbled, but responded when necessary in Honduras and at home. They went to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, drew England and Wales, beat Iran, and lost to the Netherlands in the Round of 16. It was an acceptable result. To some, including then-U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart, it had been a successful campaign. Berhalter left Qatar as a favorite to retain the job for a second cycle.

What happened next came to define, delay and linger over his now-terminated second cycle. He went to a leadership summit in New York and told a now-infamous story about Reyna. He didn't name Reyna, but when the story got published (without Berhalter's knowledge or permission), dots got connected. Reyna's parents went to Berhalter's boss, Stewart. Their mention of a decades-old domestic violence incident involving Berhalter and his then-girlfriend, now-wife, sparked an investigation, and left Berhalter in limbo for six months.

Berhalter's first contract expired at the end of 2022. As the investigation played out, Stewart left U.S. Soccer, leaving the federation's sporting department rudderless. As it searched for Stewart's successor, who would lead the now-on-hold USMNT coaching search — and even after it settled on Crocker in April 2023 — the external assumption was that Berhalter would not be rehired.

But in June, after a murky search heavy on buzzwords and light on known candidates — and as interim coach B.J. Callaghan, a Berhalter assistant, was leading the USMNT to a Nations League title — U.S. Soccer brought Berhalter back.

He retook charge in August. But throughout the fall and spring, he failed to meet rising expectations.

“If we continue to develop in the way that we have,” Berhalter said at his reintroductory news conference last June, and “if this group continues to go where we think they can go, the sky's the limit.” Instead, they flat-lined, or perhaps even regressed. They had grown from the 34th best team in the world at the onset of the Berhalter era to 14th, per Elo ratings, entering 2022. They are now back down to No. 31.

They lost to Germany in their first big second-cycle test. They needed a "miraculous" own goal to save face against Jamaica in March. They beat Mexico again, but it has since become apparent that this Mexico team, which also slumped out of its Copa América group, is the worst in decades.

A 5-1 loss to Colombia followed. It was a "wake-up call" that shouldn't have been necessary. A 1-1 draw with Brazil stabilized the USMNT entering Copa América. But a quarterfinal berth was the minimum expectation. The U.S. didn't meet it. The failure was heavily influenced by Tim Weah's red card against Panama. But the trend had become obvious. And now, the Berhalter era is over.

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