The U.S. men’s national team has a few directions it can go to determine who will take charge as its next head coach for the most important four-year cycle in the program’s history.
Ahead of the expanded 2026 World Cup, which the USA will host alongside Canada and Mexico, the American men have a unique opportunity to use the coming years to prepare for a breakthrough on the biggest stage. The expectations on the men’s team to make a deep run on home soil will be higher than in any previous edition.
After decades of trying to push into the upper echelon of international soccer, the U.S. now has an opportunity to gain millions of fans domestically while also using the host boost to push towards a milestone World Cup performance. Therefore, hiring the right head coach is of critical importance to the health of the national team not just now, but for years and decades to come.
With 2022 World Cup boss Gregg Berhalter out of contract and his future still yet to be determined with an investigation also currently underway, The Sporting News brings you a rundown of some of the possibilities as the U.S. soccer federation makes its next coaching hire.
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Gregg Berhalter as next USMNT coach?
Former USMNT defender Gregg Berhalter was hired to take charge of the U.S. national team in 2018, leading the U.S. back to the World Cup after the devastating failure to qualify in 2018. He managed the USA in Qatar, seeing the U.S. out of Group B, but then suffered elimination at the hands of the Netherlands in the Round of 16.
There are two main considerations at play in determining whether Berhalter is the right man for another four-year cycle.
First, did Berhalter do enough in his four years in charge to deserve a new contract? He won regional trophies in North America (CONCACAF) and qualified for the knockout rounds of the World Cup, while developing young talent and setting up the player pool for future success. But there is a faction of the fanbase that believes he could have done more in his time.
MORE: Should the USA retain Gregg Berhalter or move on? Arguments for & against his return
Second, Berhalter is currently under investigation for an incident of domestic violence that occurred over 30 years ago which came to light due to the Reyna family disclosing it in reaction to their son’s treatment during and after the 2022 World Cup. The 1991 incident, the handling of Giovanni Reyna, and other findings of the investigation will all factor into the U.S. federation’s final decision on Berhalter.
MORE: Berhalter-Reyna saga explained as domestic violence report leads to investigation
The U.S. Soccer press conference on January 26 provided a bleak outlook on Berhalter remaining as USMNT head coach. The federation parted ways with sporting director Earnie Stewart and general manager Brian McBride, who were both major proponents of Berhalter during his time as head coach.
Additionally, while president Cindy Parlow Cone did confirm that Berhalter “remains a candidate” to be re-hired as USMNT head coach, other statements made it sound like they’re leaning in another direction. Most notably, Parlow Cone started the press conference by saying the recent departures of Stewart and McBride provide U.S. Soccer with “a clean canvas” as they move towards 2026, which is language that would suggest a new direction, not the re-hiring of the previous head coach.
CPC: “We certainly didn’t plan it this way, but this presents us with an opportunity.”
“I know this moment feels a bit uncertain. What it actually is is a clean canvas.”
That doesn’t sound super supportive of Gregg Berhalter continuing as head coach of the #USMNT.
— Kyle Bonn (@the_bonnfire) January 26, 2023
Finally, Parlow Cone confirmed that their timeline for hiring a new USMNT head coach could extend through the summer, saying they want to hire a new sporting director first before finding a head coach. That’s less than ideal for Berhalter, who reportedly has received offers from European club teams, and he is unlikely to wait that long for a job he might not even get.
Jesse Marsch next USMNT head coach?
Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch is a popular name when discussing USMNT coaching candidates. His rise to a Premier League manager has made him a well-liked figure back in his home country. There aren’t many top-level American coaches who have reached the level he has, so naturally his name will crop up when there is an opening.
However, despite his work at the club level, it’s no sure thing Marsch would make a good USMNT coach or that he would be a viable candidate to begin with.
First of all, he has a contract with Leeds United through the summer of 2025, which would need to be sorted out should he still be employed by Leeds when U.S. Soccer came calling. With Leeds mired in a relegation battle, some have begun calling for his dismissal, and he may wish to continue solidifying his standing as a coach at the highest club level before transitioning to the national team stage.
Additionally, Marsch plays a very specific tactical style which may not necessarily translate to the national team environment.
National team coaches typically deploy a more pragmatic, structured approach despite having better talent at their disposal. Players only get to train a few weeks out of the year with their national team, and Marsch’s high-press, high-energy style of play requires regular practice time and an understanding of the tactical nuance involved in order to be implemented.
Still, the 49-year-old is an exceptional coach who has Champions League, Premier League, and domestic league experience with MLS. He has developeda reputation as a man-manager and knows the American player well, plus he has managed the likes of Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson at the club level, which would only help as a national team coach.
MORE: USMNT’s 2023 schedule
Jim Curtin next USMNT head coach?
The best domestic option would likely come in the person of Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin. Some fans may not be keen to dip back into the MLS well after Berhalter, but Curtin’s resume is glittering.
The 43-year-old Pennsylvania native has been with the Union his entire coaching career, and has proven his ability to develop young talent, win with a limited roster, and deliver consistent performances within the salary restrictions of MLS. He has won MLS Coach of the Year twice, and has seen cup success domestically, reaching both the U.S. Open Cup final and the MLS Cup final during his tenure.
While U.S. Soccer continues to plod along in its decision-making process, Curtin is reportedly in talks to extend his contract with the Union, and while that wouldn’t necessarily rule him out of contention for the USMNT job, it would make acquiring his services a much more expensive and complicated process.
MORE: Where will the 2026 World Cup final be held?
Jose Mourinho as USMNT head coach?
According to a report by World Soccer Talk, current Roma coach Jose Mourinho is on the shortlist of names for the U.S. Soccer Federation should they move on from Berhalter.
Mourinho has proven to be a divisive figure at some of the stops in his career, and while he has achieved undisputed success at the highest European level (Champions League, Premier League, and Serie A titles, just to name some), he also comes with a number of risk factors.
First, Mourinho has never managed on the international level, which is a completely different landscape. Yet that shouldn’t be too big of a drawback, as neither have other names believed to be candidates.
Even with all the trophies he’s won, when results become hard to come by, some of his coaching spells have ended poorly. Mourinho’s trophy haul has slowed in recent years, and for a manager who made his name with big budgets and stars, development of young talent isn’t something he’s known for, though he’s getting a taste of it in Italy with Roma.
It’s hard to make the argument that Mourinho would be a sensible choice for a long-term project such as managing a national team over a four-year cycle, but his past success and big name make him an enticing option.
Marcelo Bielsa as USMNT head coach?
Argentine boss Marcelo Bielsa has long been a name mentioned in connection with the U.S. coaching search. Back as far as 2011, there are links between Bielsa and the USMNT.
His name has cropped up again now that there is uncertainty around the U.S. position, and this time there could be a fit. Gregg Berhalter instituted a targeted pressing system in his four years in charge, and Bielsa’s appointment would take that to the next level with his high octane style of play.
Bielsa has national team experience, leading Argentina for six years and Chile for four, a big boost over the other candidates on the list.
Yet there remain risks with Bielsa. He has been known to wear out his welcome, not with his personality or ego, but because his pressing system is exhausting. Still, that lends itself more to a club setting, where players can become overworked through a long season. At the national team level, where players are only around for a week or so at a time, there’s less opportunity for burnout or overuse to occur.
With Bielsa out of a job since his dismissal at Leeds last year (which led to Jesse Marsch being hired), he could be a top name on the list if the national team moves on from Berhalter. However, he has also emerged as one of the leading candidates to succeed Frank Lampard as manager of Premier League side Everton.
Other USMNT coach candidates: Zidane, Low and others
Other names have been mentioned in connection with the U.S. national team job.
Former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane would be an incredible hire, but he has reportedly turned down the job along with a number of other offers, according to a report by French publication L’Equipe.
Joachim Low, the former Germany boss, has also been mentioned as a possibility as he is currently out of a job, yet to secure his next role since leaving the German national team in 2021 though he is reportedly looking for a new gig. While Low has plenty of national team success in his managerial past, he left Germany in tatters when he departed, and U.S. fans may still have PTSD from ex-Germany coaches given how the Jurgen Klinsmann era finished.
Two domestic-based names that have been floated are former USMNT players Steve Cherundolo and Tab Ramos.
Cherundolo is just now cutting his teeth as LAFC manager, only on the heels of his first season in charge after years coaching in the Hannover youth system and a brief one-year stint with USL side Las Vegas Lights. The 43-year-old would be an exciting young hire, but handing the keys to such an inexperienced coach would be massively risky ahead of such a critical World Cup cycle.
Ramos, meanwhile, is far more experienced, having served as an assistant with the USMNT youth and senior sides for years before venturing out to test himself at the club level, but his time with the Houston Dynamo didn’t quite go as planned and he’s since had to step down to the USL level with Hartford Athletic.