A day after opening arguably the biggest World Cup cycle in its history, the U.S. Soccer Federation finds itself without a sporting director and without a general manager or coach for its men's national team.
The federation announced Thursday that sporting director Earnie Stewart will return to the Netherlands as director of soccer for legendary Dutch club PSV Eindhoven while Brian McBride, general manager for the men's national team program, has resigned after three seasons.
The men's team has been without a permanent head coach since Gregg Berhalter's contract expired at the end of 2022 and federation President Cindy Parlow Cone said on a conference call Thursday that the position could remain open into the summer, leaving interim coach Anthony Hudson in charge for Nations League games in March and June and the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which ends in July.
She said she was hopeful the federation would have a new sporting director in place before the Women's World Cup, which kicks off in July.
But she pushed back at the idea that U.S. Soccer was in disarray less than 3 ½ years before the World Cup will return to North America.
"This is the opportunity for us to take a more holistic view and determine how we can be most effective and efficient moving forward," Cone said in a Zoom call with reporters. "While he certainly didn't plan it this way, this presents us with a great opportunity.
"I know this moment feels a bit uncertain for you in the media, for our staff, for players. What it actually is, is a clean canvas."
Cone said U.S. Soccer has retained Sportsology Group, a New York-based advisory company that works with sports franchises and leagues to fill senior leadership roles and redefine their operational strategies.
JT Batson, the chief executive and secretary general of U.S. Soccer, insisted the departures of McBride and Stewart were not connected to the controversy surrounding Berhalter's future with the team.
"No impact whatsoever," he said.
Following last year's World Cup in Qatar, the mother of national team player Gio Reyna, upset about some comments Berhalter made about her son, phoned Stewart to tell him about a 31-year-old physical altercation between Berhalter and the woman who later became his wife. In response, U.S. Soccer hired an Atlanta law firm to investigate the 1991 incident.
Stewart, McBride and Berhalter were all teammates on two U.S. World Cup squads captained by Gio's father, Claudio.
Instead, Batson said, the moves had more to do with opportunity and timing. Stewart's family remained in the Netherlands when he took the sporting director's job with U.S. Soccer four years ago and the chance to reunite with them was too good to pass up, so the federation let him out of a contract extension that ran through 2026. He will remain with U.S. Soccer through Feb. 15, then begin his new job March 1.
McBride, meanwhile, told U.S. Soccer of his desire to leave last fall, before the Qatar World Cup. Cone said she is uncertain whether McBride will be replaced.
Although the federation will continue to review candidates for the open coaching job with the men's team, the hire will be made by Stewart's replacement. Berhalter, who has the best winning percentage for a men's coach in U.S. Soccer history, remains in the running for that job.
"At this point, nothing has changed on that front. Gregg remains a candidate," Cone said.
The ground under him may have shifted, however. Stewart was a vocal supporter of Berhalter's work and a new sporting director may feel a need to break with his predecessor and hire his own coach.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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