USMNT coaching search: Top candidates to replace Gregg Berhalter

U.S. Soccer fired men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter on Wednesday, and now, with a home World Cup less than two years away, it is back to square one: searching for a new USMNT head coach.

The search, which is now underway, will be "much more targeted" than previous U.S. Soccer searches, sporting director Matt Crocker said Wednesday. Crocker will lead it. And "I'll be more inclined to go hard and go early with specific candidates that I feel meet the criteria that we're looking for," he said.

On a 15-minute Zoom call with a handful of reporters, though, Crocker also said he'd consider "a really wide pool of candidates." When asked if he had a preference for domestic coaches or foreigners, he said: "I just want to get the best coach possible."

So the search is wide open. The desired "profile," Crocker said, is "a serial winning coach" with "a passion for player development" — which is fluffy and vague enough to open the door to dozens of candidates.

Below are 18 who could be considered.

Big names, long shots

Jürgen Klopp, free agent — Klopp has been the dream candidate for weeks, perhaps months. His résumé, from Borussia Dortmund to Liverpool, requires no repeating. If he's interested and affordable, he should be the pick.

But those are big "if"s. When Klopp left Liverpool two months ago, citing burnout and seeking normalcy, he said he "probably will not be a manager again."

To tempt him back so soon, U.S. Soccer would probably have to pay him far more than it has ever paid anyone. Berhalter made roughly $1.6 million per year; Klopp, at Liverpool, reportedly made some $20 million annually.

But money isn't the main factor here — so we'll pause that discussion, and pick it up below. The reason Klopp is a long shot is that, until further notice, he has no burning desire to coach.

Zinedine Zidane, free agent — Zidane, a legendary player who transitioned seamlessly into coaching, has been idle ever since leaving Real Madrid in 2021. So, he's available. But would he be interested — in coaching the U.S., or any country outside his native France?

He reportedly rejected an approach from U.S. Soccer in early 2023. Although then-U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart has denied making that approach, and questioned the validity of that report, Zidane's answer was and is probably a no.

Mauricio Pochettino, free agent — Pochettino is also available, having been dismissed by Chelsea in May after just one season. Unlike Zidane and Klopp, though, he wouldn't necessarily be a home-run hire. He, like some others on this list, has a clearly defined approach to soccer, and has only ever implemented his aggressive, physically demanding style at clubs, where he could work with players for months at a time, daily. International management is an entirely different beast.

Thomas Tuchel, free agent — Tuchel, on the bright side, is a widely respected tactician whose shelf life wherever he goes is roughly two years — which, in this specific USMNT case, is perfect.

Culturally, on the other hand, he seems like an awkward fit. He grossly mismanaged U.S. captain Christian Pulisic at Chelsea. He is anything but a "players' coach." Perhaps, some might argue, he'd be a timely and necessary contrast to Berhalter, but his exacting nature might lower the USMNT's floor.

His potential candidacy also comes with the same caveats as the three names above and some below: Would he be interested? And how much would he cost?

There is no set spending cap on the USMNT search — and, contrary to uninformed speculation, there are no limitations related to equal pay. "I don't think that's gonna be a stumbling block," Crocker said.

There are, rather, scenarios where sponsors or donors could chip in to lure a big name — much like Apple and Adidas did with Lionel Messi, or like Canadian MLS owners did with Jesse Marsch.

"I know it's a really competitive market out there salary-wise," Crocker said. "And we have to be competitive to get the level of coach that I believe can take the program forward in terms of achieving the results." It seems likely the next U.S. coach will make more than Berhalter did.

But of course, money will be a consideration. It's unclear whether U.S. Soccer has a price range.

Gettable foreign coaches

Hervé Renard, France women's national team — Arguably the best blend of ability and availability on the market, Renard has said he will leave the French women's team after the upcoming Olympics, specifically because he wants to return to men's soccer and coach at the 2026 World Cup.

And his résumé — like his prototypical French handsomeness — is alluring. His reputation is that of a single-cycle specialist. In the 2010s, he led both Zambia and the Ivory Coast to Africa Cup of Nations titles. He then took Morocco and Saudi Arabia to the 2018 and 2022 men's World Cups, where each performed admirably.

He is not the player developer that Crocker says he wants, but he is definitely a winner, and could be the ideal fit on a short-term contract through 2026.

Joachim Löw, free agent — Löw has not coached since his 15-year run with the German men's national team, which included a World Cup title, ended mercifully in 2021. But he supposedly has set his sights on the 2026 World Cup. Might the USMNT job entice him?

Marcelo Gallardo, free agent — The celebrated Argentine manager seemed like the Next Big Thing as he won trophy after trophy at River Plate. Instead, he went to Al-Ittihad, and just got sacked after seven months.

His availability is timely, and he's probably worth a call, but his philosophy seems like a better fit for the club game — and specifically South America or Europe, not Saudi Arabia.

José Pékerman, free agent — The 74-year-old Argentine made his name in the international game, helming Argentina at the 2006 World Cup and Colombia in 2014 and 2018. But the real reason Crocker might be intrigued is that Pékerman spent his first two decades as a coach in the youth ranks, first with clubs and then with Argentina's Under-20s.

If U.S. Soccer does indeed want a developmental guru — Crocker's reasoning was that the USMNT player pool is still green, the second-youngest at the 2024 Copa América — Pékerman could be considered.

One potential complication, though, might be his English proficiency. It's unclear how comfortable he is with the language. When asked Wednesday whether speaking English is a requirement for the U.S. job, Crocker did not directly answer the question. "I think effective communication is critical, when you need to get a message across to the players," he said. "That hasn't changed. And we'll be considering a really wide pool of candidates."

Patrick Vieira, Strasbourg — Vieira, a revered midfielder in his day, has been on USMNT fans' radars ever since he came to manage New York City FC in MLS in 2016. But he wasn't U.S. Soccer's pick when the job opened up in 2018, nor when it opened up again in 2023. He has hopped around the club game, from NYCFC to Nice to Crystal Palace, and now to Strasbourg — which is probably where he'll stay, and probably why Crocker will look elsewhere.

Stefano Pioli, free agent — Pioli was sacked at season's end by AC Milan, where he oversaw the best 10 months of Pulisic's professional career. He was reportedly "set" to become Al-Ittihad's new manager as recently as last week, but nothing has been finalized. Might he be a USMNT option?

Thierry Henry, France men's Olympic team — The other French Olympic coach is presumably available. In the past, he has reportedly been "keen" on the USMNT job, and even publicly flirted with it when it was vacant. But, well, is he any good as a manager? His only two senior head coaching gigs, at Monaco and Montreal, have gone poorly.

David Moyes, free agent — Moyes' first qualification: He is a Matt Crockerlookalike.

OK, seriously, his real qualifications: He is available after parting ways with West Ham, where he actually did quite well over the past several years, almost as well as he did previously at Everton. He has also been a regular visitor to the U.S., and said in 2018: “I would have to consider the USA job if I was approached because it’s one of the big nations in world football, with massive growth potential.”

He plays pretty regressive football, so he's an unlikely choice for a youthful USMNT, but it's not out of the question.

American and/or MLS candidates

U.S. Soccer has made four of its last five USMNT head coaching hires from MLS. There is external pressure this time around to look elsewhere, but if the federation goes back to the well ...

Steve Cherundolo, LAFC — Of all the options, Cherundolo might be the best fit. He is not just any MLS coach. After a 15-year playing career at Hannover in Germany, he worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first in the club's academy, then elsewhere as an assistant, including briefly with the USMNT — for whom he earned 87 caps as a player.

He was in the German youth national team system when he came back home to take his first head coaching job, with the USL's Las Vegas Lights. From there, he leapt to LAFC, where he has already won more in two years — albeit with more resources — than Berhalter ever won as a club boss.

His best quality seems to be his adaptability. His LAFC teams have played some brilliant, possession-based, attacking soccer. They have also, at times, been willing to concede possession and hit opponents on the counter.

Cherundolo's main demerit is that he only has a few years under his belt as a head coach — and none at a level higher than MLS.

Wilfried Nancy, Columbus Crew — Nancy, a French visionary, is widely considered the best MLS coach right now. Some would say, after only three-plus years between Montreal and Columbus, that he's already the most impressive ever.

From Crocker's perspective, the worry would be that he's a better fit for the club game than the international arena. His principles of play — his system of "cues," as he explained to Yahoo Sports earlier this year — require a lot of teaching. And teaching isn't all that possible when players only convene a few times per year.

Jim Curtin, Philadelphia Union — Curtin's name has been throw around in the future USMNT coach conversation as the Union established themselves as a consistent force in MLS. But they've had a rotten 2024, and Curtin's résumé isn't quite diverse enough to deserve serious consideration.

David Wagner, free agent — Wagner, a German American who's spent most of his life in Germany but played briefly for the USMNT in the 1990s, is another name that's been frequently mentioned in speculative conversations. Would he be seriously considered a couple months after losing his job at Norwich City in the English Championship? Who knows.

Pellegrino Matarazzo, Hoffenheim — Matarazzo, a New Jersey native who has lived in Germany since he went there as a player in his early 20s, is arguably the highest-ranking American coach in global soccer right now. So, naturally, he deserves a serious look.

He apparently got a brief look from U.S. Soccer last year. "I was contacted," he told ESPN. "It was a short conversation. ... It was a good conversation. We exchanged a couple of ideas. And it was a nice conversation. But not the right timing for either party. Just more of a 'get to know each other' kind of conversation, and see what happens moving forward."

He went on to mention that he was "very into what I'm doing right now" at Hoffenheim in the German Bundesliga. He indicated that the club game was where he wanted to be. That's the chief reason he probably won't be the next USMNT coach.

Hugo Pérez, free agent — A former USMNT player and U.S. youth national team coach, Pérez is an extremely respected figure in the coaching community. But his only senior head coaching experience is two years with the El Salvador national team. He'd be a very surprising choice for the top U.S. job.

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