When Greg Berhalter arrived at the airport on Wednesday, the day after his 10-hour interview at an undisclosed location with NFL leadership, he got a call from athletic director Matt Crocker.
Crocker told him, “You’re the man.”
The decision sealed a months-long process and global search in which Crocker evaluated more than 10 candidates for the men’s national team coaching job, ultimately narrowing the process to a handful of finalists. Eventually it came down to Berhalter, who had led the United States through the previous World Cup tournament but also had run through off-field issues since the team’s return from Qatar, most notably an independent investigation into an incident of physical abuse 30 years before he and his teammates were involved. Rosalind Berhalter, now wife, when the two were students at the University of North Carolina.
In March, an independent investigation Purhalter disinfection to work with the federation again, but there was no guarantee that he would get this opportunity. After a lengthy interview on Tuesday and a follow-up with Crocker and Cindy Barlow Kuhn on Wednesday morning, Berhalter headed to the airport to fly home.
Then Crocker called.
“It was a great feeling,” Berhalter said Friday at a press conference announcing his return as coach. “You can imagine what the last six months have been like. I started thinking about my family. I started thinking about my daughters and my son and everyone, my whole family, my extended family, everyone. It was an amazing moment, and it was kind of like thinking about the team and the potential and your mind is going 100 miles an hour, But I was really excited to come back and really do the next World Cup and make the nation proud.”
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American football landed here, with the same coach who had been in charge six months earlier, and some felt it was a strange circumstance. Why did they need six months to come to this conclusion? Was it time wasted if they went back to the same coach?
But the US Soccer leadership insisted on Friday that it was much the opposite. Crocker did not know Berhalter prior to taking over as athletic director. The training search started from scratch and used a “data-driven model” to select candidates. In the end, the fact that they landed Berhalter was as strong an endorsement as anything else.
“What I found, throughout the process from the first moment I met him to the end of the process, what came along in abundance was his passion, his knowledge, his drive and his growth mindset,” Crocker said. “And I’m really excited to be involved with Greg.”
(photo: American football)
Crocker, who came to American football from the Southampton club and who previously Help evolve Described as the “DNA of English football” for its national teams, his approach was to narrow down suitable candidates. It included a template, he said, that looked at a coach’s playing style, his leadership approach, and other “competencies,” including building relationships and the ability to “create and lead a vision and identity.”
The process accelerated when Crocker was released early from his job at Southampton and was able to take up more research in coaching. Crocker was initially expected to join US Soccer in a full-time role on 2 August, but was allowed to leave by the time Southampton’s season concluded on 28 May.
“We’re looking at coach behaviors. There are a number of data and skill sets with which you can determine whether coaches are forward coaches, aggressive coaches, whether coaches can mirror our style of play and continue to evolve that,” Crocker said. So that was the starting point. The second thing was about things like ELO ratings, winning coaches and coaches with a reputation for developing young players.”
This initial process was reduced to “dual coaches” and “a number of such candidates” who then went through an “exhaustive process”. Crocker also said that he has been in regular contact with the player leadership board, which includes veterans such as Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Tim Ream and Walker Zimmerman, and that their feedback informed the prototype of what players look for in a coach. Notably, several players have come out publicly in support of Berhalter, including Pulisic and winger Tim Weh.
The process eventually led to the day-long interviews that Berhalter gave earlier this week. Crocker described the interviews as “rigorous and intense”.
“Everything from psychometrics (the science of measuring mental abilities) to tests of abstract reasoning and logical reasoning to tests where candidates had the opportunity to prepare for certain elements about strategy and what they were going to do and how they were going to develop the team and then make sure they were tests where they literally had to succumb to pressure,” Crocker said. At that point in time.” “It gave us an opportunity to get real rich data, and then it took us a while to sit down and really fine-tune all those numbers, but what I’m happy to say is every step of the way Greg scored phenomenally and we’re really excited.” for being here.”
Berhalter confirmed that he was in discussions with Mexico’s Club América, one of the biggest teams in North America, when he received an invitation to interview the American soccer team.
“One thing I told him when I got this interview date was ‘I have to do this interview,’” Berhalter said. “I know we have something to discuss, but I have to get this across because I will regret it for the rest of my life if I never give myself the chance.”
In the end, it got him the job he wanted – leading the US team to the 2026 World Cup.
After the decision was made on Wednesday, Crocker made a presentation to the USSF board of directors on Thursday. The board needed to formally approve the decision, though the vote was not unanimous.
“We have a very diverse and enthusiastic board of directors, and as part of good governance, you have to have a good discussion,” said JT Batson, CEO and General Secretary of NFL, Friday. “And that’s a big part of an organization like ours. In this case, we had a very lively discussion. We obviously voted to approve Greg as our head coach and just, you know, for context, it’s also a group when we make a decision even after a lively discussion, we all move on and move forward.” And the only one who didn’t vote in the affirmative, we’ve actually had conversations today about the ideas he has on how we can make sure the most vibrant and diverse staff going forward.”
(photo: American Football)
Batson noted that the union did not place any restrictions on which candidates they might consider — including salary requirements — during the search process. Crocker said he had spoken with contract coaches and others who weren’t, and candidates who were coaching both at the club level and at the international level.
“I made sure from the start that I brought the best candidates to the negotiating table,” Crocker said.
He said there was no mandate to hire an American coach, although he noted that he felt Berhalter’s passion for his country and that developing the game in the United States gave them a “competitive edge”. Multiple sources briefed on the research, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the list of candidates, confirmed that both US coach Jesse Marsh and former Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira were candidates involved in the search to some extent.
In the end, the decision rested with Berhalter. But Crocker said that just because he felt Berhalter was the right person for the job, it didn’t mean things were back to “business as usual.” This has partly led to Berhalter’s decision not to coach for Sunday’s Nations League Final against Canada or the upcoming Gold Cup as he and Crocker work together to strategize and better prepare the federation and program for the next cycle.
“That’s what we call evolution,” Crocker said. “So what we look forward to doing with Gregg is working closely to move the program forward, working to identify the competitive advantages that will move us forward into 2026. So, with that in mind, Gregg and I are going to start that process right away… We must come together to discuss some of those big key priorities and some of the key competitive advantages that we will pursue, to continue to develop the team and continue to improve and work on the strategy framework for 2026.”
Part of that process will need to sit down with winger Gio Reina to discuss how to move forward, Berhalter indicated. Reina’s parents, Claudio and Daniel Reina, informed the American Football of the incident that occurred 30 years ago in connection with Bierhalters. The conflict between Reinas and Berhalters, who had been longtime friends, arose initially over Gio Reina’s role in coming off the bench at the 2022 World Cup, and then with comments made by Berhalter at a non-standard leadership conference in the days following the tournament about Gio Reina’s behaviour. without naming the player, that became public. Berhalter said he intended to meet at some point with Reina, but that would come after Sunday’s Nations League final and before the September international window. (He also said he would meet other players, including Zack Stephen and Riccardo Pepe, who did not make the 2022 World Cup squad.)
Sources said Gio Reina apologized to his US teammates for his lack of effort
“I certainly acknowledge that there is work to be done,” Berhalter said. “And Gio is an important player for this team. He’s a very talented individual. I have the commitment and obligation to coach him like I coach every other player. I want to get the best out of him, we want to get the best out of him. And we know that if we can unleash his talents, he’s a game-changer in football.” So there’s work to be done, and part of it is working with Matt and trying to rebuild the relationship that we know is going to be important going forward.”
Now, six months after being eliminated in the World Cup round of 16, and after hours of interviews and auditions, the United States can begin to move forward under their former coach. Whether they made the right decision will be decided over the next few years – first at the 2024 Copa América, but eventually on the biggest stage: the 2026 World Cup on home soil.
(Photo: John Todd/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)
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