EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The new coach of the United States men’s national team will speak English. He will agree to move to Chicago and work from U.S. Soccer’s headquarters. And his identity will still be a mystery next month, when the team passes the one-year anniversary of its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Those were among the few concrete details that emerged Thursday from a round-table with the national team’s new general manager, Earnie Stewart, who also said his choice of the coach would (most likely) be announced by the end of the year.
Stewart revealed few other specifics Thursday in what were his first public comments about a decision that will define not only the team’s course toward returning to the World Cup in 2022 but also his nascent tenure.
He confirmed that he has not yet interviewed any candidate for the post, but that “six or seven” coaches had reached out to him, either directly or through their agents, to express interest in the job. Asked if being an English speaker was a requirement, he responded, “I would say it is.”
He said he had solicited the advice of 15 or 20 stakeholders in the United States soccer community — players, coaches and others — but that the final call would be his, in consultation with the federation executives Ryan Mooney and Nico Romeijn, and with the approval of U.S. Soccer’s board of directors.
And there was one other thing Stewart made clear on Thursday: he will not be rushed.
“I want to make the right choice,” Stewart said of the next coach, “and not a choice that is hasty.”
For now, that means the team will forge ahead in the hands of Dave Sarachan, the veteran assistant who took charge in an interim capacity late last year and, through a confluence of distractions and other federation priorities, had quietly kept the job ever since. Sarachan, 64, was to have led the team only through a contracted friendly with Portugal a few weeks after the departure of his former boss, Bruce Arena, who oversaw the qualifying failure.
But he was held over for a January camp and then a few games after that, and on Friday he will lead the United States out to face Neymar and Brazil at MetLife Stadium. Matches against Mexico (Tuesday) and Colombia (Oct. 11) follow close behind, and friendlies against England and Italy loom in November.
Those, too, may come and go without a new boss, and that seemed fine with Stewart. For now, he said, he has been focused on creating a profile of the kind of coach U.S. Soccer should seek, as well as on more existential questions of style — not tactics and formations, he stressed, but more theoretical ideas of just what an American team should look like.
The former process is complete, he said, and the latter is nearly done. Only then will Stewart mix in some data points and move on to formal outreach to candidates and in-person interviews.
“Once you sit down and talk to coaches and have discussions about going forward, you have to give them an idea of who we are, and what we want to be,” he said.
But replacing — or, in a longer shot, retaining — Sarachan is not the only significant hiring decision facing U.S. Soccer. The executive vice president slot on the federation board vacated by Carlos Cordeiro when he assumed the organization’s presidency in February will not be filled until early next year, and the federation still must hire a general manager for the women’s national team. The roster of youth national team coaching positions faces an overhaul — they, like the new men’s coach, will be required to move to Chicago as part of a federation effort to foster collaboration — and a staff to manage preparations for the 2026 World Cup must be assembled.
And then there is Dan Flynn, U.S. Soccer’s 63-year-old chief executive. Flynn has held his post since 2000, growing the federation into a multimillion-dollar operation, but he has pressed the board for years to establish a succession plan. In the wake of the qualifying failure, Flynn, who had a heart transplant in 2016, agreed to stay on to provide continuity for Cordeiro but also for Stewart and the new coach. But he, too, will need a successor in the near future.
For past year, though, the focus has been on healing the wounds from the qualifying failure, winning the World Cup hosting rights and finding the right person to coach the team in the 2022 cycle and beyond. In the short term, that means the spotlight will stay on Stewart.
“It’s not about Earnie’s coach or anything like that,” he said. “It’s about having a coach that is good for U.S. Soccer and where we want to go.”