Earnie Stewart

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U.S. Soccer promotes Stewart, hires alum Markgraf as USWNT GM

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The United States Soccer Federation is staying on brand and promoting from within.

USMNT general manager and program legend Earnie Stewart has been elevated to sporting director for the entire federation, and 201-times capped USWNT defender Kate Markgraf has been named general manager for the women’s program.

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“This is a great day for the Federation and for soccer in America,” said U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro in a press release. “In Earnie Stewart and Kate Markgraf, we’re keeping our commitment to ensure that soccer operations are run by soccer experts.”

“With Earnie as sporting director and Kate as the first general manager of our women’s national team, we have the leaders in place to align our technical approach, develop the next generation of players and win championships.”

That means that Stewart, 50, will be in charge of hiring his replacement.

Like most things with U.S. Soccer, both of these hires need to come with tempered response and not be held against the hires themselves.

Stewart was a force for the USMNT as a player and his post-playing career has been impressive, with stints as technical directors for NAC Breda and AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie before taking a similar post with the Philadelphia Union.

Markgraf’s resume is less traditional for the post. According to U.S. Soccer, her post-playing career has included acquiring two graduate degrees, working as a broadcast analyst — including with NBC Sports — and volunteered with four D-I women’s programs in the NCAA. Most intriguing, however, is how her academic research will play into her philosophy on developing the women’s program.

She holds two graduate degrees: a Master’s in Kinesiology and a Master’s in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research on elite athletes and the influence of Grit, a psychological metric predictive of success in elite domains, was the first of its kind and was published, with her as the co-author with her advisor, in the top Sport Psychology Academic Journal, the Journal of American Sport Psychology.

Again, two resumes worthy of acclaim, but how far did U.S. Soccer go in the interview process. That will be the key question for president Carlos Cordeiro when he joins Stewart and Markgraf on a conference call with the media at 5 p.m. ET Monday as the USSF has made some good resume hires for Stewart’s last post and the USMNT head coaching position, only to see the process scrutinized for only looking within the family. That’s also plagued the delayed hunt for a new CEO, which has inspired fan and employee protestation at the idea of elevating the USMNT head coach’s brother to the top of the organization.

U.S. Soccer ‘in final stages of hiring’ new CEO; Jay Berhalter in running

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The United States men’s and women’s national teams have started serious summer competitions, but a gigantic story may be flying under the radar thanks to the Gold Cup and Women’s World Cup.

On Thursday, the Washington Post’s Steven Goff reported that the United States Soccer Federation was “in the final stages” of hiring a replacement for outgoing U.S. Soccer Federation CEO Dan Flynn (above), and that Jay Berhalter was in the running for the gig.

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Jay is the brother of Gregg Berhalter, the USMNT head coach, and Goff added this tidbit on Friday: Flynn wants the longtime USMNT executive to replace him and current USSF president Carlos Cordeiro doesn’t approve of the idea.

The appointment is done by the USSF’s Board of Directors, of whom Sunil Gulati is a non-voting member but maintains plenty of sway with the rest of the elected board.

Cordeiro can vote on the matter, as can new vice president Cindy Parlow Cone, MLS commissioner Don Garber, USL owner Alec Papadakis, and the following names listed on the USSF web page: Athlete reps Chris Ahrens, Carlos Bocanegra, and Lori Lindsey (Lindsay Tarpley Snow – Alternate); Adult Council representatives Richard Moeller, John Motta, Youth Council representatives Dr. Pete Zopfi, Tim Turney, At-Large rep Mike Cullina; and Independent directors Lisa Carnoy and Patti Hart.

Jay Berhalter has been “next man up” for the gig for some time, and his status within the organization was a constant talking point in the process of hiring a new USMNT coach. That turned out to be his brother Gregg, who has a fine resume and is 4W-2L-1T since taking the reins, but the search committee may not have spoken in-depth with some of the top available and interested names.

An odd footnote to this appointment is a burst of USSF employee reviews at the web site Glassdoor which specifically targeted executives for a poor working environment and stale atmosphere. At least 10 of the 78 reviews have come since the start of June and several have headlines along the lines of “Culture Dependent on Next CEO” and “Dream Job, Nightmare Potential.”

A couple of points from the Internet, one from former USMNT forward Herculez Gomez in December and another from longtime American soccer writer Charles Boehm.

U.S. Soccer announces Gregg Berhalter as USMNT boss

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It’s official: The United States men’s national team’s first new full-time manager since 2011 is Gregg Berhalter, the 44-times capped defender who’s coached Hammarby and the Columbus Crew.

U.S. Soccer general manager Earnie Stewart announced his choice on Sunday, months after Berhalter became the clear front-runner and 13-plus months since Bruce Arena stepped down from the post following the embarrassing World Cup qualifying failure in Couva.

Now, we can well and truly begin to move past that era. Berhalter will be introduced at a press conference in New York City on Tuesday at Noon ET.

[ MORE: Who is Gregg Berhalter? ]

General manager Earnie Stewart, the third man quoted in a press release from U.S. Soccer, says the controversial hiring process doesn’t leave any doubts in his mind. The USSF was said to have refused an interview with former Spanish boss Julen Lopetegui and formerly discussed the job with only four candidates including Berhalter.

“After a very thorough process, I am absolutely convinced Gregg is the right man to lead the National Team program moving forward,” Stewart said. “He ticks all the boxes with his background as a person, a successful coach and an accomplished former international player.”

Berhalter was chosen as MNT head coach after an extensive selection process led by Stewart, who worked alongside U.S. Soccer’s Chief Sport Development Officer Nico Romeijn and Chief Soccer Officer Ryan Mooney in developing the profile for the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Interim manager Dave Sarachan did an admirable job while the USMNT navigated managerial purgatory, introducing all sorts of new blood, but Berhalter is tasked with inviting the right mix of veterans and new blood into the fold.

Will there be places for Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore? Will Berhalter want to see Geoff Cameron and Danny Williams? Or is the longtime MLS man going to begin with youth?

Loving the idea of Berhalter for USMNT, but hating the process

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Let’s get the ugly out of the way early: The appearance of nepotism is garbage, and U.S. Soccer will have made the latest of several ego-driven, tone deaf, unforced errors if and when it announces the hiring of Gregg Berhalter without having spoken with a number of top candidates.

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It’s only going to look like they had their guy all along, the brother of the federation’s chief commercial officer Jay Berhalter, and that their new general manager either wasn’t allowed to conduct a full interview process or hire a new USMNT manager without his hand being held.

Again, that’s probably not what happened, but U.S. Soccer not caring how it looks shows that very little’s changed since Sunil Gulati left office channeling Gordon Bombay’s “quarter of an inch” logic.

So, again, U.S. Soccer didn’t interview Tata Martino, who may be off for the Mexican gig, and that knowledge triggered a pretty healthy discussion on Twitter with the knowledge that Sporting KC mastermind Peter Vermes, 2016 MLS Coach of the Year Oscar Pareja, RB Leipzig assistant Jesse Marsch, and former El Tri boss Juan Carlos Osorio also were not interviewed. Doug McIntyre adds ex-USMNT coach Bob Bradley and longtime U-20 boss Tab Ramos to the list.

Assuming the reports are all true, that’s a problem. It also doesn’t mean that Berhalter isn’t a good, if not great, candidate for the job (and maybe Stewart was hired after saying, “I’d take Gregg as my No. 1 guy.”)

The 45-year-old knows the importance of both testing himself overseas and keeping himself sharp in MLS, having player in the Netherlands, England, and Germany before finishing his career with the Galaxy.

In management, he got his start assisting Bruce Arena before taking a head job in Sweden and losing just 11 of 46 matches for Hammarby.

Moving to Columbus in 2013, he’s led the a team which has never spent much to supply a team under his eye. According to Spotrac, the Crew have spent the 22nd (2018), 17th, 17th, 13th, and 17th most dollars on player salaries in the league. Here’s how those teams performed in the league:

That’s outstanding, and when you throw in the fact that he’s done that with the distraction of owner Anthony Precourt at times literally trying to keep fans from making the stands look full for a playoff game so he could engineer a move to Austin? Insane!

Even if Columbus loses on Sunday and is passed by Montreal for a playoff spot, that’s still impressive.

You could reasonably argue that fans should want his hire as much as any other American candidate and many from outside the continent, too. Shoot, as long as an interview doesn’t drop where Berhalter claims an MLS All Star Team would dominate the top tiers of England, Germany, Spain, and Italy, and that Gyasi Zardes is like-for-like with Roberto Firmino

Anyway… what I’m saying is there would be plenty of reasons to be excited with the Berhalter hire, who has show he knows when to drop off and defend and when to lay his foot on the pedal. There are only two things to really dislike about him, and one assumes Martino is off to Mexico.

  1. Berhalter is 0-4 against Martino in MLS play
  2. Unfortunately we hearken back to the top of the post, and the knowledge that the USSF will have put its new boss in a precarious position amongst its supporters and “shareholders.”

It won’t change how Berhalter does his job — the guy looks like he’d rather chew through a 2×4 than deal with speculation — but it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the other aspects of how the federation has dealt with an improbable World Cup qualifying failure in one of the most forgiving confederations on Earth.

Then again, maybe they’ll announce Zinedine Zidane on Nov. 1. What do we know?

US Soccer begins interviewing candidates for head coach

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Earnie Stewart was hired as U.S. Soccer general manager on June 6. It’s about time.

Exactly five days before the one-year anniversary of the loss to Trinidad & Tobago, U.S. Soccer has announced Stewart has begun to interview candidates for the vacant United States head coaching position.

The USMNT has been without a permanent head coach since October 13 when Bruce Arena resigned three days after the fateful loss in Couva. Dave Sarachan has been proceeding as interim head coach for much of that vacancy, but he is only considered a fringe candidate for the permanent position. U.S. Soccer has taken a significant amount of criticism for the length of time it has taken to even begin the interview process, with many pleading with the federation to solidify the position and help the federation move on from the disaster a year ago.

ESPN’s Doug McIntyre reports that Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter, whom many believe to be a serious candidate for the position, gave a “no comment” when asked if he has been interviewed. Meanwhile, Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep reported that while Stewart had suggested interviewing just one candidate was a possibility, they have multiple candidates lined up for interviews during this process.

There are no other significant reports of those who may be involved, but others who have received significant mention in the past have included former New York Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch, current Sporting KC boss Peter Vermes, Toronto FC and head coach Greg Vanney. Others who have been brought up include Atlanta United boss and former Argentina head coach Tata Martino, former Portland Timbers manager Caleb Porter, and current U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos.