Berhalter fired as USMNT coach after Copa failure

Gregg Berhalter has been fired as manager of the United States men’s national team, effective immediately, the U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed Wednesday.

The announcement comes in the wake of the team’s poor showing at the 2024 Copa América, in which the hosts failed to get past the group stage after defeats to Uruguay and Panama.

It was the first time in the Americans’ five appearances in the CONMEBOL event that they failed to advance out of the group stage. It was also the first time they were eliminated from the group stage of a World Cup, Copa América or Gold Cup that they hosted.

The hope had been that the Americans would use the tournament as a springboard to greater success at the 2026 World Cup, which the U.S. is co-hosting with Canada and Mexico. Instead, the performances at the Copa América revealed how little progress the USMNT has made since the 2022 World Cup.

The decision to remove Berhalter was made by U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker after a 10-day review process, which included consultations with president Cindy Parlow Cone, CEO JT Batson, vice president of sporting Oguchi Onyewu and members of the board of directors.

Sources told ESPN that the review process included Michael Karon — who according to the USSF website is a member of its Professional League Task Force — polling board members over the past few days to see where they stood as it related to Berhalter’s performance and whether he should stay.

“I want to thank Gregg for his hard work and dedication to U.S. Soccer and our Men’s National Team,” Cone said in a statement. “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.”

Crocker will lead the search for Berhalter’s replacement and has started the process.

“We are deeply grateful to Gregg for his commitment the past five years to the Men’s National Team and to U.S. Soccer,” Crocker said in a statement. “Gregg has earned the respect of everyone within our organization and has played a pivotal role in bringing together a young team and moving the program forward. We wish Gregg all the best in his future endeavors, and we know he will find success in his next coaching position.

“U.S. Soccer is committed to doing what is necessary to ensure our success on the pitch and we are dedicated to fostering a culture that leads to winning. Our immediate focus is on finding a coach who can maximize our potential as we continue to prepare for the 2026 World Cup, and we have already begun our search process.”

The failure at the Copa América tournament took on even more significance given that as hosts, there will be no World Cup qualifying matches to help U.S. team prepare for the tournament. The Copa was the last opportunity for the Americans to play competitive fixtures against teams from outside the Concacaf region.

The only other tournament that the national team will participate in between now and 2026 is the 2025 Concacaf Gold Cup. The upcoming September international window will see the U.S. square off against Canada and New Zealand.

Expectations for the USMNT have increased since its respectable showing at the 2022 World Cup, when the U.S. reached the round of 16 with the youngest team in the tournament weighted by minutes played.

Berhalter was re-hired as coach in June 2023 on a contract through the 2026 World Cup, following a six-month investigation sparked by a rift with the Reyna family. But since then the U.S. has struggled to show improvement.

The USMNT barely got by Jamaica in the semifinals of the Concacaf Nations League last March, when an own-goal in second half stoppage time helped the U.S. escape with a victory in extra time. It also fell to Trinidad & Tobago in the second leg of the quarterfinals of that competition, though the U.S. progressed on aggregate.

These results, taken together, have increased calls for Berhalter to be replaced. On the night of the U.S. team’s elimination, Crocker, who wasn’t present at the Uruguay match due to a long-planned family commitment, announced that a review process would commence to evaluate the performance of Berhalter and the team.

Ultimately, Crocker decided to relieve Berhalter.

Berhalter, a former U.S. international as a player, was hired in December of 2018, after having spent the previous five seasons with the Columbus Crew. But he was hired while his brother, Jay, was the chief commercial officer at the U.S. Soccer Federation, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest.

Following the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Berhalter set about rebuilding the team with a new generation of players, and a new style based heavily on possession. The results were uneven, but ultimately positive.

The U.S. lost the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup final to Mexico, and also lost during the group stage to Canada in the 2020 Concacaf Nations League. Thanks to an evolution to a more pragmatic style, the U.S. ultimately recovered to claim that title, as well as the two subsequent CNL crowns.

World Cup qualifying had similar difficulties. The team ultimately qualified for the 2022 World Cup, though that wasn’t secured until the final day of qualifying, with the U.S. finishing third in Concacaf qualifying on goal differential.

Yet Berhalter and the team have failed to build on the promise of the 2022 World Cup, and now he finds himself out of a job.

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