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Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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U.S. Soccer May Go Big-Game Hunting for Its Next Men’s Head Coach

  • Gregg Berhalter was officially fired after a poor Copa América performance.
  • A top European coaching target could cost well into eight figures annually.
Jul 1, 2024; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; United States head coach Gregg Berhalter talks with midfielder Weston McKennie (8) during the second half of a Copa America match against Uruguay at Arrowhead Stadium.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. Soccer is officially looking for a new men’s national team head coach after firing Gregg Berhalter (above), and it could come at a steep price.

Berhalter’s exit was formally announced Wednesday, nine days after the U.S. lost to Uruguay in its final Copa América group-stage match and failed to advance to the knockout round on home soil. The coach’s current salary isn’t publicly available yet, but his total compensation in 2022—when the U.S. made the knockout round at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar—was $2.29 million, according to the federation’s most recent financial report. That included a $900,000 performance bonus for advancing out of the group stage.

Opening Up the Wallet?

The 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America begins in 23 months, so making a swift coaching hire will be imperative. Rumors are flying about potential candidates, but one name that makes the most noise is Jürgen Klopp, who stepped down as Liverpool’s manager after the 2023–24 Premier League season.

According to The Athletic, contact has been established between the two parties. While Klopp “reiterated” that he wants a break from soccer, the “interest remains” from the USSF. Klopp’s salary at Liverpool was said to be roughly $20 million, at least, according to soccer outlet Goal.

So, would the U.S. be able to afford a coach of that caliber? “I know it’s a really competitive market out there salary-wise,” U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker told reporters after Berhalter’s firing. “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 that we need to do on the field.” At the end of the 2023 fiscal year, U.S. Soccer reported $68.87 million in net assets on hand after operating at a roughly $38 million loss.

Equal Pay Top of Mind

Men’s and women’s national team players receive equal pay under the most recent collective bargaining agreement, but that doesn’t include coaches. Still, the federation last year hired English coach Emma Hayes to lead the U.S. women’s national team, giving her a record $1.6 million salary that put her on par with Berhalter, according to multiple reports.

So, any increase in pay for the next men’s coach would either give Hayes a salary bump, as well, or create renewed criticisms of inequity. Former U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski made $411,000 in 2022. 

“I’m also really conscious that we need to continue to drive for higher standards and equality,” Crocker said. “I don’t think that’s going to be a stumbling block in terms of our investment; our national team is a priority. It’s something we’re prepared to invest in and something that we will be investing in.”

Crocker said the goal is to hire a coach by September, so answers to these questions could be coming soon.

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