Who should be the USMNT’s new coach? Here are 16 replacements for Berhalter

It’s clear the U.S. men’s national team needs a new direction. Since the 2022 World Cup, when the USMNT exited in the round of 16 against a superior Netherlands side, there has been little to no evidence of progression. In fact, it looks like the USMNT has been regressing over the past two years.

Recent subpar results have been largely papered over, and everyone continued to believe the talent level of this U.S. side alone is enough. A second-leg loss to Trinidad & Tobago in the Concacaf Nations League didn’t matter because the USMNT advanced on aggregate anyway. A terrible performance against Jamaica in the Nations League ended with the Americans being bailed out by a last-minute Jamaica own goal. The 5-1 shellacking by Colombia was “only” a pre-Copa America friendly.

But after the USMNT got knocked out in the group stage of the Copa America following losses to Panama and Uruguay — plus a not-big-enough win over lowly Bolívia — those previous poor performances look like ignored warning signs.

Whenever the discussion of moving on from coach Gregg Berhalter has come up, it has inevitably turned to: “Well, who is going to replace him?” The prevailing narrative has been that there aren’t any coaches better than Berhalter whom the U.S. Soccer Federation can try to hire.

With that in mind, ESPN reporters/analysts Jeff Carlisle, Luis Miguel Echegaray, Cesar Hernandez, Lizzy Becherano, Tim Vickery, Caitlin Murray and Bill Connelly offer up 16 candidates U.S. Soccer should consider as possible replacements for Berhalter. With a World Cup on U.S. soil coming quickly in 2026, U.S. Soccer has little time to spare.

Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp, 57, has just about everything U.S. Soccer could wish for in a manager. He has been successful everywhere he has gone, he speaks perfect English and he is as charismatic as they come. He seems precisely the kind of man who will get fans — both die-hards and those new to the game — galvanized about the World Cup.

He’s also available after leaving Liverpool at the end of this past season, having stated he no longer had the requisite energy needed to fight for trophies at the highest level of the game. But a national team gig might be a decent fit for him. There wouldn’t be the daily demands that a club job would have, and the USMNT is currently at a low ebb, leaving plenty of upside with what is still viewed as a talented roster.

Now, to be clear, hiring Klopp is still the stuff of fantasy, even if former U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, in a column for The Daily Mail, said he’d be willing to “personally fly to Spain” in order to convince Klopp to take the job. Klopp’s recent Instagram post wishing Americans a happy Fourth of July — which sent USMNT fans into a tizzy — probably didn’t mean anything.

Even if Klopp were interested, his hiring would almost certainly require the U.S. Soccer to back up the Brinks truck and unload a pile of cash larger than the federation has ever paid a manager. Is that possible? One source with knowledge of U.S. Soccer’s thinking said it is, and likened it to college sports in the U.S., where the main entity pays a head coach a base salary and sponsors make up the rest.

But thinking of something in theory and actually executing a plan are two different things, and the word on the street is that Klopp would still cost way more than U.S. Soccer is willing to spend. If you’re U.S. Soccer general manager Matt Crocker, yeah, go ahead and make the call, to be sure. Just don’t get your hopes up. — Jeff Carlisle

David Wagner

If you can’t get Klopp, why not go for one of his proteges? Wagner and Klopp were teammates when the two were at Mainz, and Wagner joined Klopp’s staff when the latter joined Borussia Dortmund.

Wagner’s professional managerial experience has been filled with highs and lows. He took Huddersfield Town into the English Premier League and kept them up for a season, but he couldn’t sustain it. There was the brutal spell with Schalke, when the club set records for futility, but that seemed mostly because of the club’s upper hierarchy. He was mostly recently with Norwich City but was fired after losing in the promotion playoffs to Leeds United.

More critically, Wagner, 52, has a connection to the USMNT, having made eight appearances for the squad in the 1990s as one of the team’s original dual nationals. He wouldn’t be the splashiest hire, but he has plenty of experience, and his preferred high-tempo style of play would seem to be a fit for the USMNT. — Carlisle

Steve Cherundolo

Of the domestic candidates, Cherundolo boasts one of the stronger résumés. He spent his entire playing career in Germany with Hannover 96, becoming the “Mayor of Hannover” after making over 400 appearances for the club. He was an utterly dependable right back for the U.S. national team, playing in two World Cups.

He then underwent a lengthy apprenticeship, spending years coaching in the youth ranks before coaching the Las Vegas Lights of the USL Championship before taking over LAFC in 2022. Cherundolo was an immediate hit, leading LAFC to a Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup double in 2022. The following season was tougher, with LAFC losing three finals, but Cherundolo has LAFC back among the league’s elite this year.

The one downside of 45-year-old Cherundolo is he’s never been a national team manager, and his résumé isn’t as varied as others on this list, so he’d be learning on the job to a degree. — Carlisle

Wilfried Nancy

If the U.S. wants to stick within the parameters of hiring someone who understands the domestic game and the Concacaf region, then Wilfried Nancy, 47, is an obvious choice. He won MLS Cup (the first Black coach to do so) in his first season as Columbus Crew coach, and he is able to create an exciting type of soccer that thrives on zero excuses mixed with a disciplined, killer-instinct mentality.

But his immediate and historic success with the Crew is not why I think he would be a good fit. It’s the identity that he has instilled with the team. Nancy’s strength is that he makes his players become accustomed to the uncomfortable. As he said last year: “This is something that we do all the time on the pitch: repetition, with clear situations, and also a structure, a defined structure. But within the structure, a lot of creativity within that.”

If the USMNT truly wants to beat the very best, the biggest priority is to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. If you want to stick with someone who knows how to do that as well as knows full well what it takes to develop North American talent, then that’s Nancy. — Luis Miguel Echegaray

Jim Curtin

If Berhalter was able to make the leap from MLS to the USMNT, then why not Jim Curtin?

The Philadelphia Union coach has become one of the mainstays of the league and has a knack for making his squads well balanced and greater than the sum of their parts. It’s no wonder that of the past four winners of the league’s Coach of the Year Award, Curtin has earned the honors twice.

And by the way, unlike Berhalter’s time on the MLS sideline, 45-year-old Curtin has a Supporters’ Shield in hand — a much more difficult trophy to win than MLS Cup. (Under Curtain, Philly reached the final of MLS Cup in 2022.) At the tournament level, one also shouldn’t overlook Curtin’s three runs into the U.S. Open Cup finals.

All that said, the timing would be a bit awkward when you consider just how poor Philadelphia have been in the current MLS season. The Union haven’t won since May and are playing far below expectations. The blame shouldn’t just be focused on Curtin, but it’s undoubtedly not a good look either way. — Cesar Hernandez

Hugo Perez

Perez has one of the more intriguing backgrounds among U.S. coaches. Born in the Salvadoran city of Morazán, he spent his youth in both countries before a snub from El Salvador saw him cast his international lot with the U.S., where he went on to make 73 appearances.

His background as a coach is no less interesting. Perez, 60, managed the U.S. U15 national team from 2012-14, a group that included Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams. He stressed playing the ball on the ground, something that Pulisic has credited for his technical development.

Perez did some scouting as well, but a falling out with U.S. Soccer saw him depart with some hurt feelings. He later went on to manage El Salvador and the Cuscatlecos punched above their weight for a while, getting to the final round of qualifying during the 2022 cycle before he was fired in 2023.

His lack of club experience makes for a hole in his résumé, but his international experience and ties to the U.S. are big pluses. — Carlisle



Gomez: USMNT have regressed under Gregg Berhalter

Herculez Gomez believes the USMNT need to “grow up” after their elimination from the Copa América.

Javier Aguirre

Premier League coaches might attract all the attention, with many dreaming of Klopp or Pep Guardiola. But the USMNT needs a coach who possesses the balance of international experience and knowledge of the intricacy of Concacaf. Former Mexican national team coach Javier Aguirre will never be the obvious choice, but his resume insists he should be considered.

Aguirre, 65, just led the Spanish team to the Copa del Rey final, mustering the unimpressive roster to compete against Spain’s best to reach the last game of the tournament. He saved the team from relegation on three occasions, proving the key to success in football doesn’t always have to live and die with individual talent. Maybe he can find a way for the USMNT attack and backline to finally work in perfect unison.

He previously coached Atletico Madrid, Espanyol and Osasuna, where he was named coach of the year in 2006 by UEFA for his efforts. Aguirre’s time in LaLiga obligated him to prepare to face the likes Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at their peak.

As a player and coach for the Mexican national team, Aguirre understands Concacaf. But it was his experience in taking over the Mexican project twice just months ahead of the World Cup — and reaching the knockout stage on both occasions in 2002 and 2010 — that may serve U.S. Soccer best.

With two years left until the United States hosts the 2026 edition, Aguirre might be one of the few who knows how to take over and succeed. And with Mexican Football Federation currently eyeing Aguirre, the U.S. Soccer may get to enjoy the luxury of stealing a candidate from a direct rival. — Lizzy Becherano

Matias Almeyda

Whether it be because of his track record of success in Mexico, Greece and South America, or his ability to unify teams and thrive in tournament scenarios, there’s a lot to like about Matias Almeyda. The 50-year-old is currently coaching AEK Athens with a contract renewed through 2028, but the draw of leading the U.S. ahead of a home World Cup should be enough to lure him away.

His profile in North America grew through a few trophies with powerhouse Chivas from 2015 to 2018, netting him coaching awards in Liga MX and Concacaf. It wasn’t too long ago when countless fans pushed for him to lead Mexico’s national team, which never came to pass.

He’s a motivator, he has titles under his belt, and he already has experience in American soccer, too — which, to be fair, didn’t go as planned as his San Jose Earthquakes side twice missed playoffs. That’s the problem for the highly disciplined leader: He has been known to incorporate samurai philosophies, like in his time at MLS.

But there’s a significant difference between the roster depth Almeyda had with the Earthquakes versus what we was up against. Still, many in the American soccer world (and perhaps those in charge at U.S. Soccer as well) won’t forget the numerous chaotic matches he found himself in with San Jose. — Hernandez

Marcelo Gallardo

Gallardo, 48, won just about every South American trophy there is to win as manager of River Plate, 14 titles in all, and twice claiming the Copa Libertadores, as well as the Argentine Primera Division in 2021.

He is something of a tactical chameleon, but with one overarching principle, “protagonismo,” which means to take charge of the game.

He’s available after an 18-month stint with Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad. It seemed a curious landing spot given he was thought to be Europe-bound. He did the same thing as a player, landing with D.C. United for a brief spell late in his career before injuries cut his time short.

Maybe another unexpected choice could see him land with the USMNT. Like Klopp, it would cost U.S. soccer a ton of cash. — Carlisle

Tab Ramos

U.S. Soccer is often criticized for being too insular and unwilling to bring in outside hires, instead cycling through the same group of people already within the federation’s orbit. So hiring Tab Ramos, a journeyman within U.S. Soccer, wouldn’t change any minds about that, but it would follow the playbook that the federation is most comfortable with.

Ramos himself has said U.S. Soccer should hire a foreign manager. Last week he told Soccer America: “We just need somebody to come in for 18 months who knows the World Cup and can prepare this team the best he can to give this team the best shot at having a great World Cup. That’s it. No learning-on-the-job person.”

Aside from not being a foreign coach, his argument could apply to himself, too. He led the USMNT U20s to three straight World Cup quarterfinals, the best and most consistent run in the program’s history. He has experience coaching some of the players on the senior team right now.

If there’s a reason not to consider him, it’s that, since leaving U.S. Soccer shortly after Berhalter was hired at the end of 2018, his stints as head coach at the Houston Dynamo and the Hartford Athletic have not been roaring successes. He’s now an assistant coach at the New England Revolution. But just as some great club coaches can’t translate their best work to the international game, the opposite can be true. Maybe the international game is where Ramos belongs. — Caitlin Murray

José Pékerman

Few managers are as experienced at international level as the Argentine. He managed Argentina at the 2006 World Cup, and his substitution of Juan Roman Riquelme in the quarterfinal defeat against Germany remains a sore spot with the country’s fans, but that team was widely praised for its style.

Pékerman went on to take the helm of Colombia for the 2014 and 2018 tournaments, where on both occasions he led the Cafeteros to the knockout stages. Pékerman is unemployed after falling out with the Venezuela Football Federation in 2023.

Pékerman also led Argentina to the FIFA U-20 World Cup on three different occasions, showing an ability to work with young players. Given that this young generation of U.S. players has seemed to have plateaued at the moment, a wise head like 74-year-old Pékerman might be what is needed to get the group back on an upward trajectory. — Carlisle

Patrick Vieira

Another candidate who ticks a few boxes is Patrick Vieira. He has been a club coach for over eight years, meaning he’s no neophyte when it comes to managing in the professional game.

Two-and-a-half of those eight years were spent in MLS with New York City FC. That familiarity with the U.S. system and its idiosyncrasies is a plus. He’s also spent time coaching in Manchester City‘s academy, as well as their reserve team, giving him a window into player development.

That said, Vieira’s record at club level has seen endure his share of struggles, and last season led Strasbourg to a 13th place finish in Ligue 1.

Would that be enough for U.S. Soccer? The federation did approach Vieira a little over a year ago during the process in which Berhalter was rehired. He was interested in the job, but Vieira told ESPN back then that talks didn’t progress. Perhaps he’ll get another look this time. — Carlisle



Gomez: USMNT’s ‘golden generation’ underachieved under Berhalter

Herculez Gomez explains the lack of success from the United States under Gregg Berhalter and why he might stay in charge despite another setback.

Hervé Renard

Hervé Renard might seem like a left-field choice because his latest gig was with the French women’s national team, where he steered them to a World Cup quarterfinal last year. But prior to that, he’s been a men’s soccer coach, perhaps most memorably leading the Saudi Arabia side that beat Lionel Messi‘s Argentina in the 2022 World Cup. (Argentina went on to win the whole tournament.)

He has coached all over the world, with a mix of club and international experience, including leading Zambia and Ivory Coast to wins at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012 and 2015, respectively. Perhaps more important than his résumé, he has been lauded for his player management — something it seems like the USMNT needs with its recent string of players getting silly red cards out of anger. It also feels like U.S. Soccer wants to skew younger for the USMNT manager, and at 55, Renard is at the stage of his career where he has plenty of experience but shouldn’t be out of touch with his players, either.

It has felt that, ever since Jurgen Klinsmann’s mercurial time at the helm, U.S. Soccer has preferred an American coach, but the federation ought to prioritize a coach with a proven track record in international soccer who understands the rhythm of big tournaments. — Murray

Mauricio Pochettino

It is hard to think of a better choice to step in as U.S. national team coach than Mauricio Pochettino. He ticks all the boxes, with the added advantage of being available after parting ways with Chelsea in May and, after a few years of accumulating frustrations as a club coach, he could well be open to the prospect of taking charge of a national team.

In his time in the Premier League, Pochettino has acquired the prerequisite knowledge of working in the Anglo-Saxon world. Combined with his Argentine roots and his experience working with top class players from all over the world, Pochettino should be a very interesting candidate for a team like the U.S.

Personal relations have often been his strong point. The Copa America serves as a foretaste and as a warning of the pressures of playing at home in a World Cup — a big friendly bear-like figure, Pochettino would ease the pressure on a young team. He has an excellent track record with young players — and this is a youthful USA team — and his front-footed tactical approach is a nice fit with the type of football the side are capable of playing.

Plus — always an asset at international level — he has experience of tournament life as a player. The USA could do much worse than appoint 52-year-old Pochettino — and it is hard to see how they could do much better. — Tim Vickery

Thomas Tuchel

Thomas Tuchel has never given any indication that he would be interested in a national team gig, much less a gig in the States. But such a job would fit him like a glove.

Taking over the USMNT would emphasize maybe his single greatest strength: coming up with a strong tactical plan for a specific match or matchup. And it would mitigate what sure seems to have become his most frustrating trait from a club perspective: complaining incessantly about what his team lacks and nagging his bosses to fix it.

You have what you have at the national team level, and Tuchel would be forced to build tactics to suit the team’s strengths and weaknesses. What’s not to like about that (aside from the money it would probably take to get his attention)?

It’s obvious why U.S. Soccer would want him — leading teams to winning the UEFA Champions League, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 is just the start. But as unlikely as this seems, it’s not impossible to think Tuchel, 50, could get on board with it, too. He is available after leaving Bayern Munich. — Bill Connelly

Thomas Frank

Let’s be clear about something: The Premier League’s elite, like Klopp or Guardiola, is not happening. Forget about it. But what if I told you that even though the best managers in the game are out of reach, you can still get someone who at the very least manages at the highest levels of the game and suits everything the USMNT wants to do on the pitch?

Presenting: Thomas Frank. Yes, I know. He has a contract with Brentford until 2027 so it’s not the most realistic situation. But is it impossible? The federation has to be ambitious and gamble because they really can’t afford to get it wrong in 2026. Speaking of which, seeing as they don’t have to qualify for the World Cup, maybe there’s some time to persuade Brentford — a club who is always three steps ahead — to consider something.

In terms of tactics, this is a no-brainer. Frank, 50, easily adapts between 4-3-3 and 3-5-2, loves to use his wing backs both out wide and in central positions (Antonee Robinson would thrive here), and prioritizes a strong triangle in the middle with energetic box-to-box midfielders. The likes of Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams would benefit tremendously. — Echegaray


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