US Soccer fires men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter : NPR

Calls for the firing of U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter grew louder after the team lost to Panama in this summer's Copa America tournament.

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US Soccer has fired Gregg Berhalter as coach of the U.S. men's national soccer team, the federation announced on wednesday.

Berhalter's dismissal follows a disappointing performance by the men's national team at this summer's Copa América, the last major international tournament before it co-hosts the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The move is a major shakeup for the USMNT amid high ambitions for the next World Cup. Now, with less than two years until the tournament kicks off, U.S. Soccer — and its future head coach of the men's team — face a daunting challenge of preparing a team that can perform as expected in the world's biggest sporting event.

“I want to thank Gregg for his hard work and dedication to U.S. Soccer and our men's national team,” said U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone, adding that association officials will now begin the process of “finding the right person to lead the USMNT into a new era of success on the field.”

The U.S. men's national team has long struggled on the world stage. The men's best showing in the modern era of the FIFA World Cup was a quarterfinal appearance in 2002.

But with the U.S. set to co-host the tournament with Canada and Mexico in 2026, expectations were high that Berhalter would lead the U.S. to a quarterfinal-equaling finish — or better. This summer’s Copa América was seen as his team’s last major chance to gain experience in a top-tier international tournament before 2026, and the No. 11-seeded U.S. was widely expected to reach at least the quarterfinals, if not the semifinals.

Instead, the U.S. was eliminated in the group stage, winning only against lowly Bolivia, ranked No. 84 internationally, before suffering a crushing defeat to No. 43 Panama, partly due to an uncharacteristic red card for winger Tim Weah early in the game, which forced the U.S. to play a man down for most of the game. The U.S. then lost again to No. 14 Uruguay on July 1.

“We are bitterly disappointed with the results. We know we are capable of more. And in this tournament we did not show that. It is as simple as that,” Berhalter said at a press conference immediately after the loss to Uruguay.

When asked if he was still the right person to lead the team to the 2026 World Cup, Berhalter answered with one word: “Yes.”

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 3: United States coach Gregg Berhalter applauds fans after the team's defeat during the Round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 between the Netherlands and the USA at Khalifa International Stadium on December 3, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Then-US national team coach Gregg Berhalter applauds fans after the team's defeat to the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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But as the days passed, calls for Berhalter's removal as coach grew, including from former USMNT stars like Clint Dempsey, who said after the game that Berhalter was “wasting” the current generation of players. The American Outlaws, an organized fan group of U.S. national soccer fans, wrote in a statement that the U.S. “must not miss this incredible opportunity to have a lasting impact on the game of soccer in this country” by allowing Berhalter to remain as coach through the World Cup.

His dismissal ends a difficult period for Berhalter. After the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he was brought in to lead the team. He helped rebuild the squad with new, younger players and guided them to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where the team reached the knockout round but were defeated in the round of 16 by the Netherlands.

Berhalter's original contract expired that year. Not long after the team's loss in the World Cup, U.S. Soccer began investigating Berhalter after an allegation of domestic violence surfaced involving a 1991 incident between Berhalter and the woman who would become his wife that occurred outside a North Carolina bar when they were both freshmen at the University of North Carolina.

The accusation, it turned out, came from the parents of a promising USMNT player, Gio Reyna, who had played very little during the tournament in Qatar. Reyna's parents — former USMNT star Claudio Reyna and women's national team player Danielle Reyna — were longtime friends of the Berhalters.

Months after the investigation opened, U.S. Soccer exonerated Berhalter and he was eventually reinstated as coach. In total, he compiled a 44-17-13 record in 74 games as the team's head coach.

Following the U.S. national team's early elimination from this month's Copa America tournament, a tournament being held in the United States for the first time, there have been renewed calls for his ouster.

In the announcement, US Soccer said the association is “committed to doing what it takes to ensure our success on the field and we are dedicated to fostering a winning culture.” The search for a new coach has already begun, the statement added.

There is speculation about who the team's next head coach could be, including outgoing Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, Canadian national team manager Jesse Marsh and Los Angeles FC head coach Steve Cherundolo.

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