Gregg Berhalter is fired as U.S. men’s coach after Copa América flop

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Gregg Berhalter is out as the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s coach — one year after his surprising reappointment, nine days after the Copa América flop and less than two years before the next World Cup.

The U.S. Soccer Federation announced Wednesday night that Berhalter had been fired and sporting director Matt Crocker had begun the search for a replacement. Berhalter had more than two years left on his contract but paid the price for the team’s disappointing performance this summer.

“At the senior level, we’ve got to win,” Crocker said in an interview with a group of reporters. “We know winning is the yardstick, and we didn’t do that.”

Berhalter, 50, had a 44-17-13 record in a tenure that ran from late 2018 through the 2022 World Cup in Qatar — where his team went unbeaten in group play and lost to the Netherlands in the round of 16 — and resumed last summer following an investigation of a domestic assault incident that occurred when he was a college student and a rift with a player’s parents.

“The Copa América result is extremely disappointing and I take full responsibility for our performance,” Berhalter said in a statement. “Our approach and process was always focused on the 2026 World Cup and I remain confident this group will be one of the great stories in 2026.”

Crocker, a Welshman who joined the USSF in April 2023, said he hopes to fill the position before friendlies against Canada on Sept. 7 in Kansas City, Kan., and New Zealand on Sept. 10 in Cincinnati.

“We are looking for a serial winning coach, a coach that can also build on the work that has already been put in place,” Crocker said. “Clearly, there’s still a lot of potential within the group, and we have to turn that into performance and results.”

Domestic-based candidates to replace Berhalter could include Los Angeles FC’s Steve Cherundolo, a former standout U.S. defender, and the Columbus Crew’s Wilfried Nancy, a Frenchman who won the MLS Cup last year in his first season with the team and earned praise for his tactics and management style.

If the USSF thinks really big, it could try to persuade Jürgen Klopp to return to coaching after a celebrated nine-year tenure guiding Liverpool. A return to the sideline, however, would probably be in European club soccer, where he would command a massive contract.

At Liverpool, Klopp earned more than $50 million annually in salary and other guarantees. In the USSF’s most recent tax filing (2022), Berhalter made about $2.3 million, including $900,000 in bonuses after the World Cup.

The decision by Crocker to rehire Berhalter last year came after Berhalter’s contract had expired following the 2022 World Cup. It also came amid a messy situation involving midfielder Gio Reyna’s parents and an investigation into Berhalter kicking his now-wife during an argument when they were attending the University of North Carolina.

With arguably the most talented roster in program history, the U.S. team this year continued to fare well in regional competition but stumbled under this summer’s bright lights. Expected to advance to Copa América’s knockout stage, the Americans were eliminated in group play after losing their last two matches, to Panama and Uruguay.

“There’s been progress in the group,” Crocker said. “But that progress hasn’t translated into enough wins in that tournament, which is pretty critical.”

Copa América was the biggest test for the U.S. team leading up to the 2026 World Cup, which will be staged in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The USSF sees the World Cup as an opportunity for the national team to make breakthrough gains on the field and grow the sport’s popularity. The catchphrase used by Berhalter and his players the past year has been “Change soccer in America forever.”

The Copa América results were a bitter disappointment to the USSF, which, shortly after the team’s elimination, said it would “conduct a comprehensive review.” The statement did not cite Berhalter but clearly was directed at a coach who had not gotten the most out of his players.

The U.S. failure came as Canada, under Jesse Marsch, a Wisconsin native, was making a run to the Copa América semifinals. Marsch was a finalist for the U.S. job last year.

Many U.S. players effusively backed Berhalter’s return last year, a sentiment that seemed to weigh heavily in Crocker’s decision at the time. A former U.S. World Cup defender who had coached in Sweden and MLS, Berhalter established a fresh culture upon his appointment in 2018 and built a promising roster following the program’s failure to qualify for the World Cup that year.

He introduced many young players into the program, created a strong bond among the players and staff, and implemented a proactive playing style. Through growing pains, the team qualified for the 2022 World Cup and fielded the youngest starting lineup in Qatar.

As the roster matured — and players joined prominent European clubs — expectations soared. The results, though, did not follow this year. The U.S. team did win the Concacaf Nations League for the third consecutive year, extending its dominance over rival Mexico, but in a Copa América tuneup last month, a 5-1 defeat to Colombia was its worst setback in eight years.

In group play, the Americans defeated Bolivia, the worst team in the tournament, but were shorthanded most of the game against Panama after winger Tim Weah received a red card. Still, the U.S. team took the lead and was tied late before conceding the winning goal. Needing to beat Uruguay and receive help in the other group game, the United States lost, 1-0.

Not since the 108-year-old tournament went to a single host country in 1987 had the home team failed to advance. Beyond that indignity, the U.S. squad was not making progress under Berhalter.

“I want to thank the U.S. Soccer Federation for entrusting me to lead this team for the past five years,” Berhalter said. “Representing our country is a tremendous honor and I am proud of the identity we have built on and off the field. It was very gratifying watching this team improve over the years and I remain grateful for the lifetime bonds created with our players, coaches and staff members.”

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