November 16 – Jill Ellis, who coached the US Women’s team to two World Cup wins but swapped pitchside for back office to head the San Diego Wave in the NWSL, described the hiring of Chelsea’s Emma Hayes as a “phenomenal hire”.
“I am excited someone of her calibre and quality will become a driver of the sport in our country,” said Ellis at the Soccerex Convention in Miami, Florida.
The US team were chasing their third consecutive World Cup title last summer in Australia/New Zealand but were beaten at the last-16 knockout stage on penalties by Sweden.
The early exit saw manager Vlatko Andonovski step down as head coach, clearing the way for Hayes, who will join the US team in May 2024, two months before the start of the Olympics.
Commenting on how it is time for the US women to take the next step after the retirement of a golden generation of players, she said the US has “to commit to learning and growing with a new group…we have to bridge the gap to the 16-18 year old players and challenge young players in that training environment”.
Ellis said that there needed to be a “consistency of line-up” that had become challenging for the US team recently as the World Cup winning senior players were transitioning out of the team.
But going forward Ellis sees another major change in the women’s game in the US “which will become more about the quality and less about the gender. People will want to see the best players in the world in their neighbourhood.”
Ellis is playing a major role in that change with the San Diego Wave where she is “now essentially learning a new language” within the business side of the club game. San Diego Wave will enter their third season in the NWSL in 2024 having already been the regular season league leaders in 2023 and reaching the final four of the NWSL Championship.
“I wanted an opportunity to grow and make a difference in the sport,” said Ellis.
“We always believed in the product and we are now seeing others look behind the curtains and see what we already knew. Not just investors but media rights buyers and sponsors. It is not a matter of should you invest but why wouldn’t you invest.”
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