Calls for Berhalter to step down from USMNT are growing. Here are possible candidates to replace him

0
515
Christian Pulisic of the United States is helped by team doctors after he scoring his side's opening goal during the World Cup group B soccer match between Iran and the United States at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

NEW YORK (AP) — Jürgen Klopp, Thierry Henry and Marcelo Bielsa are among those being speculated about as candidates to take over from Gregg Berhalter as U.S. coach ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

Jesse Marsch, Hugo Pérez, Pellegrino Matarazzo and David Wagner could be considered if Berhalter is fired or quits. Among high-level European club coaches, Massimiliano Allegri and Mauricio Pochettino also are available.

Berhalter remained as coach Tuesday, a day after the U.S. was eliminated from the Copa America in the first round with a 1-0 defeat to Uruguay. He has a contract through the 2026 tournament, which will be cohosted by the U.S., but has lost the support of a significant portion of the fan base.

“I don’t think anybody would bat an eye. Most teams and federations, it would be a fait accompli,” former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, now Fox’s lead soccer analyst, said Tuesday. “At a time where we need to be energized and excited about the leadership going into the next two years, I think we find ourselves questioning and negative and cynical and divided, let’s be honest, relative to what can be in 2026.”

Some aren’t convinced the USSF will force out Berhalter, given the length of time it took to make decisions the last two times the job was open.

“If this were any other country, I think the decision would probably have been a lot easier, but I think they’re going to be reluctant to make any changes, at least any time soon,” said Tony Meola said, the starting goalkeeper at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.

Kasey Keller, the goalkeeper in 1998 and 2006, said a top European manager would force the U.S. to increase the salary of newly hired women’s coach Emma Hayes.

“It’s not that simple because of what the federation has done and the decisions they’ve made on how they’re going to implement budgets for the men and the women,” said Keller, now an ESPN analyst. “When the fan base starts talking about managers that are available, you can’t not separate budgetary constraints — Well, I want Taylor Swift to play at my birthday party, but I have a budget of 100 grand. Well, it’s not going to work out for you. Sorry. …

“Emma Hayes is thinking, oh God, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Please, fan base, keep yelling and yelling and yelling to go sign somebody for $6 million.”

Led by Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, the current player pool has the most illustrious pedigree in American soccer history. In last month’s friendly against Colombia, for the first time all 11 starters played for clubs in England, Germany, Italy, Spain and France.

Yet, the team has seven wins, six losses and one draw since Berhalter returned to the bench last September.

Matt Crocker was hired as USSF sporting director in April 2023 and made last year’s decision to bring back Berhalter. He again would lead a search.

“Matt Crocker, this is on him in that he’s hired Gregg, and so if there is a problem it means admitting not just a mistake but a colossal mistake,” Lalas said.

Possible candidates:

Klopp

He would be the highest-profile replacement after leading Liverpool for nine seasons that included Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League titles. He said in January he was retiring at the end of the season and intended to wait at least a year before taking another coaching job.

He likely would require a vastly higher salary.

Berhalter earned $2,291,136 in 2022, including $900,000 in bonuses for the Americans qualifying for the World Cup and reaching the second round. Jurgen Klinsmann was given a $2.5 million base salary when he was hired in 2011 to replace Bob Bradley, whose base was $515,647 in 2010.

Henry

A former star for Arsenal, Barcelona and the New York Reds Bulls, Henry is coaching France at this summer’s Olympics, where men’s soccer is mostly limited to players under 23.

Past head coaching jobs included Monaco and the Montreal Impact.

When the U.S. job was vacant in February 2023, Henry said in his role as a CBS analyst that he had questions about what the USSF approach is: “What’s the plan? What’s the philosophy? What do you want to be?”

Bielsa

Born in Argentina, he coached Argentina from 1998-2004, Chile from 2007-11 and took over Uruguay last year. His club experience includes spells at Leeds, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao.

Marsch

A former coach of the New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Salzburg, RB Leipzig and Leeds, Marsch was hired in May as Canada’s coach.

He said he was interviewed by the USSF last year before Berhalter was rehired, telling the CBS Sports Golazo Network in a May 16 “Call It What You Want” podcast: “I wasn’t treated very well in the process.”

Pérez

He played for the U.S. from 1984-94, helping the team qualify for the 1990 World Cup but missed the tournament because of an injury.

Born in El Salvador, Pérez coached his native country’s national team from 2021-23.

He posted best wishes to the U.S. team before Monday’s game.

“Leading a national team is the hardest, even harder than coaching a club because of the limited time you have with the players,” Pérez wrote on X. “Gregg is a smart and respected coach and can do something special with this group tonight.”

Matarazzo

A New Jersey native who played college soccer at Columbia, Matarazzo has stayed outside the USSF/MLS system.

After a career at lower-tier teams in Europe, he coached Stuttgart from 2019-22 and was hired by Hoffenheim in February 2023. He led the club to a seventh-place finish last season and a berth in the Europa League.

Wagner

A forward who made eight appearances for the U.S., Wagner has coached Schalke, Young Boys and Norwich. He was fired by the English club in May after losing the promotion playoff semifinal.

Allegri

Coached McKennie and Tim Weah at Juventus. He was fired in May for angry behavior during and after the Italian Cup final.

Pochettino

He left Chelsea in May after a sixth-place finish. Pochettino also has coached Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain.

___

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer