US Soccer Fires Men’s Coach Berhalter After Copa Elimination
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US Soccer Fires Men’s Coach Berhalter After Copa Elimination

Archive photo: Speculation has it that candidates to succeed Gregg Berhalter include Jürgen Klopp, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Marcelo Bielsa.

By Ronald Blum | Associated Press

NEW YORK — Gregg Berhalter was fired 10 months into his second stint as U.S. men’s national soccer coach, leaving the Americans scrambling for a leader less than two years before the World Cup.

Berhalter was fired on Wednesday, nine days after his team’s first-round exit from the Copa America raised questions about whether he was the right person to stay on.

“The result of the Copa America is extremely disappointing and I take full responsibility for our performance,” Berhalter said in a statement. “Our approach and process have always been focused on the 2026 World Cup and I am convinced that this group will be one of the best stories in 2026.”

After opening the Copa America with a 2–0 victory over Bolivia, the U.S. lost 2–1 to Panama, playing much of the match shorthanded due to Tim Weah’s sending-off, and was then eliminated after a 2–1 defeat to Uruguay. The U.S. had seven wins, six losses, and one draw in their second period, leaving their overall record at 44 wins, 17 losses, and 13 draws.

When Berhalter returned to the bench last September, he announced that the team’s goal was to “change soccer in America forever,” and if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen without him.

Sporting director Matt Crocker rehired Berhalter and will also make a recommendation for his successor. The team will next play in September friendlies against Canada and New Zealand.

USSF spokesman Neil Buethe declined to comment on Crocker’s response to questions from The Associated Press.

“Our immediate goal is to find a coach who can maximize our potential as we continue to prepare for the 2026 World Cup. We have already begun the search process,” Crocker said in a statement.

USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone also issued a statement. She did not immediately respond to a text message seeking additional comment.

Among the candidates mentioned to succeed Berhalter are Jürgen Klopp, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Marcelo Bielsa, as well as Jesse Marsch, Hugo Pérez, Pellegrino Matarazzo, David Wagner, Steve Cherundolo, Jim Curtain, Massimiliano Allegri and Mauricio Pochettino.

Salary may be a problem.

Berhalter earned $2,291,136 in 2022, including a $900,000 bonus for the Americans qualifying for the World Cup and reaching the second round. The men’s coach at the top level could put pressure on the USSF to raise the salary of newly hired women’s coach Emma Hayes.

There are just 23 months left until the World Cup returns to the United States for the second time, with the Americans playing their first match in Inglewood, California, on June 12, 2026. The only league matches with full rosters until then will likely be in the CONCACAF Nations League.

Berhalter, who turns 51 on Aug. 1, was the first American to become a national team coach after playing for them at the World Cup. He was hired as the U.S. coach in December 2018 after stints with Sweden’s Hammarby (2011-13) and Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew (2013-18).

“I want to thank the U.S. Soccer Federation for entrusting me with the leadership role this team has been playing for the past five years,” Berhalter said. “It has been a tremendous honor to represent our country, and I am proud of the identity we have built on and off the field. It has been incredibly rewarding to watch this team improve over the years, and I continue to be grateful for the lifelong bonds we have formed with our players, coaches and staff.”

He led the U.S. to CONCACAF Nations League titles in 2021 and 2024, as well as another with the B team in the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. His players were vocal in their support of Berhalter, saying he created a culture that held the group together.

That support led to Berhalter being rehired by Crocker 5 1/2 months after his original contract expired amid an investigation into a decades-old domestic violence allegation that was brought to the attention of the USSF by the Reyna family, who were angered by Berhalter’s limiting of Gio Reyna’s playing time at the World Championships. A law firm hired by the USSF said there was no legal obstacle to Berhalter returning.

Berhalter’s critics cited a lack of success against teams outside the region and struggles on the road against Central American opponents. The U.S. earned the region’s final automatic World Cup spot on goal difference and had the second-youngest team at the 2022 tournament in Qatar. The U.S. squandered second-half leads, drawing 1-1 with Wales, drawing 0-0 with England and beating Iran 1-0 to reach the knockout stage, where the Americans performed poorly, losing 3-1 to the Netherlands.

The players have shown a lack of discipline: defender Sergiño Dest was shown a red card in Trinidad and Tobago last November for arguing with the referee, while Weah was sent off in Panama for hitting an opponent in the head.

“Gregg has earned the respect of everyone in our organization and has played a key role in unifying a young team and growing the program,” Crocker said in a statement.