Finally, the U.S. Soccer Federation replaced former men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter...with Gregg Berhalter. And boy, the armchair experts are NOT happy!
Thankfully, they don't get a vote. I said in March that Berhalter deserves to finish what he started. I didn't think he'd get the chance, but now that he's coming back, I'm more excited than ever about the 2026.
Many fans wanted a world class coach to lead the U.S. into the next World Cup -- a Guardiola, Clopp or Pochettino, please -- but here's the thing: the U.S. Men's National Team job is not a world class job. Why would any coach who's enjoyed great success in Europe, or South America -- or in international football, for that matter -- risk his reputation in the States? Our player development "system" is a mish-mash of academies, pay-to-play travel teams, high schools and colleges with wildly varying styles and philosophies. The sport's infrastructure, too, is woefully insufficient for a nation of America's wealth, primarily because soccer is, at best, the third- or fourth-most-popular sport.
World-class coaches look for world-class opportunities. No matter how large a check we write, the U.S. Men's National Team isn't at that level.
The truth is, there was no guarantee that anyone the federation could find to take the job would be better than Berhalter and a reasonable chance he wouldn't be as good. Many USMNT fans have outrageously over-inflated ideas about this generation's soccer talent; Pulisic, McKennie, Adams and company are among the most talented players to ever don the Red, White and Blue kit, but the bar hasn't been that high.
But some fans' heightened expectations have made the frustration more bitter, and they blame Gregg.
Some observers make a convincing case that Berhalter's squad underperformed in Qatar. I don't buy it -- they may have underperformed some fans' expectations, but let's remember they were the second youngest team at the World Cup, following a cycle when the Stars and Stripes were kept out of the most important competition in the universe by Trinidad and Tobago.
Why does Berhalter deserve a second chance? Because he's a winner. He won 37 of his 60 national team matches and drew 11. His 71.67 percent result percentage is better than every previous manager who coached more than two matches. When he took the job, the goal was to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Mission accomplished. As an added bonus, the U.S. squeaked its way out of the group stage.
And, by the way, despite the Berhalter-Reyna dust-up after the World Cup, the players still respect and support the coach who brought most of them into the team.
A new coach will need to time to develop his vision for the team, teach it and get the players to buy into and feel comfortable in his system. Three years may be plenty of time to install a new game plan, but Berhalter's system has been in place since 2019. One of the complaints against Berhalter has been that the players struggled in his system BUT they have had success while struggling.
With three more years perfecting that system, what might they accomplish?