Berhalter fired from US team with just two years to go before 2026 showcase

July 11 – Gregg Berhalter has been fired by the U.S. Soccer Federation “with immediate effect” following the US’s disastrous performance at the Copa America being hosted in the US and which they exited at the group stage.

With just two years before the start of the 2026 World Cup for which the US are automatically qualified for as hosts, the US federation is now scrambling to find a head coach that will harness a misfiring squad that has performed far below expectations since Berhalter’s return to its management.

Berhalter’s results were patchy but enough to keep in the job for perhaps longer than his negative style of play and the way he set his teams up merited. It was too often more akin to old school US college soccer than modern professional football.

He eventually lost the support of the USSF, a generally uncritical US media and even the American Outlaws fan group who wrote an open letter after the Copa America exit demanding he was removed from post.

U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker, who previously worked with Southampton in the Premier League and the English FA and recently recruited Emma Hayes to lead the US women’s national team, has “launched a search” for a new manager.

It is likely to be a very targeted search with only a few names considering the timelines to 2026 and the need to establish continuity quickly. Jurgen Klopp, who is taking time out after having left Liverpool, is a hot favourite for the job but whether he can be persuaded to cut short his break remains to be seen.

Berhalter managed the US for 74 matches, winning 44 and losing only 13 matches. His first stint was from 2018 to 2022 when his contract expired after the 2022 World Cup.

It is a good record and his contract renewal was expected to be automatic after a World Cup where they progressed into the last 16 but failed to really ignite. However, following a spat with one of his more talented players Gio Reyna, son of US legend Claudio Reyna, and subsequent revelations of a historical domestic violence incident, the USSF were forced to conduct an investigation and his contract was not renewed until 2023.

In the interim Antony Hudson had managed the team before quitting and BJ Callaghan took over for the 2023 Nations League finals where a young and talented US selection introduced a dynamic and fluid style of play unlike anything the US had played before, capped by an intoxicating 3-0 win over Mexico.

Berhalter never managed to build on that US epiphany on his return though he did have some moments. However, a hammering by Colombia in a pre-Copa America warm-up and the subsequent loss to Panama in the group stages illustrates how far the US had fallen off the pace in what was a short time.

“I want to thank Gregg for his hard work and dedication to U.S. Soccer and our Men’s National Team,” said U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone. “We are now focused on working with our Sporting Director Matt Crocker and leveraging his experience at the highest levels of the sport to ensure we find the right person to lead the USMNT into a new era of on-field success.”

Fast-paced, creative, and the ability to harness the potential of a huge nation behind a talented but not properly tested group of young players will be on Crocker’s shopping list and ultimately his own job spec.

That will require the USSF to think a little outside the box in terms of recruitment and approach. Something they have traditionally never managed to do.

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