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Klinsmann gets four more years -- why now?
by Paul Kennedy, December 12th, 2013 3:29PM

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TAGS:  men's national team

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[USA MEN] Four more years. That's what Jurgen Klinsmann got on Thursday with the announcement that U.S. Soccer has agreed to give him a contract extension that will keep the former German World Cup champion in his role as head coach of the U.S. men's national team through 2018. He also has been given the title of technical director.

The news is hardly surprisingly as Klinsmann has expressed his desire to remain as national team coach. Despite reports of interest from English club Tottenham, where he played, and the Swiss national team, one of the rising powers on the European scene, it would have taken a lot of get Klinsmann to leave his current home in Newport Beach, Calif., which allows him to commute (sometimes by helicopter) to U.S. Soccer's national training center in Carson.

Klinsmann and his wife have two children, a son, Jonathan, who is a junior at Mater Dei High School and plays goalkeeper for the Irvine Strikers, and a daughter, Laila, who is still in middle school. Uprooting them now would not seem to be something he would want to do now.

It still begs the question, should U.S. Soccer have re-signed him now before the World Cup? He is after all the first U.S. World Cup coach to be given a four-year extension before the finals.



At the last six World Cups, the USA has advanced to the knockout stage three times, and it exited after the first round the other three times -- each time without winning a game. No coach who failed to advance the USA out of the group stage has ever stayed on into the next World Cup cycle.

Bob Gansler stayed on until early 1991 and was replaced by John Kowalski on an interim basis until Bora Milutinovic took charge. Gansler might have stayed on longer, but a change of administrations -- Alan Rothenberg replaced Werner Fricker as U.S. Soccer president in the summer of 1990 -- ended his chances of being the 1994 World Cup coach.

Steve Sampson was fired shortly after the 1998 World Cup and the same for Bruce Arena in 2006. Their ousters followed three-and-done performances during which the USA failed to win a game.

Of the three coaches who took the USA to the second round, only Arena and Bob Bradley got contract extensions -- in October and August following the finals at which they coached. Milutinovic stayed on until March 1995, but Rothenberg never gave him a new contract, so Sampson took over, first on an interim and then through the 1998 finals, where the USA finished last out of 32 teams with three losses in three games.

Klinsmann's reference point would be the German national team program and the controversy that surrounded Joachim Loew's future four years ago when he took Germany to the semifinals at the 2010 World Cup but was coaching without a contract that had run out on June 30. Since then, Loew has been granted extensions in March 2011 through 2014 and in October of this year through 2016, guaranteeing no mid-tournament speculation about his future.

The difference, of course, is there is much less likelihood the USA will be around until the semifinals next summer to make Klinsmann's future an issue if he didn't already have an extension. As if concerned about the possibility of the USA drawing a Group of Death and its effect on his future if no contract extension was reached before the finals, Klinsmann had told USSoccer.com in October, six weeks before the draw, that there would several "killer groups" and an unbalanced draw. Indeed that's what happened with the USA, which drawn with Germany, Portugal and Ghana in the toughest group -- at least on paper -- at the 2014 World Cup.

A U.S. national team coach has nowhere near the pressure of just about any other coach at the World Cup, but the pressure not extend Klinsmann's contract would have grown if the USA went three and out.

"One of the reasons we hired Jurgen as our head coach was to advance the program forward and we've seen the initial stages of that happening on the field and also off the field in various areas," said U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati in a statement released on Thursday. "In the past two years, he has built a strong foundation from the senior team down to the youth teams and we want to continue to build upon that success."

The phrases Gulati used were "advancing the program forward" and "building a strong foundation" that don't have a lot to do with results on the field -- the positive results of the last two years or the results that the USA may or may not get next summer in Brazil.

In 2012, the USA finished 9-2-3, and in 2013 it went 16-4-3 -- the best record in the program's history -- with a Gold Cup title and first place in the Hexagonal to boot. Those marks should be good enough to earn Klinsmann a contract extension.

But it still leaves the question, what happens if the USA implodes next summer? Gansler's 1990 team -- the first at the World Cup in 40 years -- was never given a chance, but things turned ugly in 1998 and 2006, making the choice of not retaining Sampson or Arena an easy one.

Yes, the USA drew tough groups in 1998 and 2006 -- still nothing like Group G in 2014 -- but the results under Sampson and Arena at the finals could not have been predicted ahead of time. The USA reached the semifinals of the Copa America under Sampson in 1995, and it won the Gold Cup and Hexagonal under Arena in 2005. Everything seemed to be going smoothly for both teams until the very end when things fell apart quickly.

Up until now, Klinsmann has been very conservative in his selections, but one wonders whether he'll now move to shake up the national team for the finals, given the freedom of not having to worry about the results in Brazil.

The USA is still very dependent on players like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, but both had their ups and downs in 2013, and the club situations of other key players (Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Jozy Altidore) aren't optimal.

The USA could go either way next summer -- it could just as easily advance out of the group as it could get blown out -- but the one thing we know is it will look very different when Klinsmann's second term begins next year, and that's when Gulati seems to be counting on Klinsmann to leave his mark.


27 comments
  1. Dan Phillips
    commented on: December 12, 2013 at 8:28 p.m.
    Fantastic

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: December 12, 2013 at 11:29 p.m.
    "down to the youth teams"? Regardless of what JK has done for the USMNT, I see scant evidence he has been involved in any youth reorg, enhancement, or development. If that's his charter, what are his duties and responsibilities? Based on the past 4 years, I expect little to change in our youth setup other than new leagues, more travel and the same old coaches continuing to rotate through. Does he have the staffing and budget to implement Claudio's National Curriculum? THAT would be progress.

  1. Tom Tani
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 7:43 a.m.
    Hey Paul Good srticle but who is Landon Dempsey? Surley you meant Clint Donovan :)

  1. Futbol Genio
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 7:45 a.m.
    I am sorry, but Gulati's reasons don't fly...they are wishful thinking. No European, S Am., Central Am country would have done this ... just bc the head coach decision is so hard to make. This thwarts all other Am candidates for the next cycle of Am players and pinches the same group of youth coaches. Head coach openings inspire everyone and keep them creative. Now, if we go 0-3 & out, we have same coach. If our youth teams fail to make or win their WCs (like now) we have same coach and Leader. Huh? We have plenty of Am coaches that would love to be considered for top coaching position...Gulati just thumbed them in the eye. We have the new German Bora, Trappatoni, Capello, Hiddinks--men that coach, but don't win WCs. At least German plyrs w visas have a slot on our team:-( From the men and women's National team coaching choices, u can see that Gulati does not respect AMERICAN coaching, and that is damnable. Arena, DeCicco, Dorrance, all were good enough! Plenty of coaches right behind them that can lead our teams. Giving an 8 year cycle to someone that can't address the technique issues, but will just continue to clog the middle and coach "hardness" makes 1/2 arse sense. Is anyone satisfied with our style and play? FN

  1. Claudio Garcia chamorro
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 7:56 a.m.
    Way too soon. He must first show his accomplishments with the team in Brasil if any. Paying him north of $2 Million Dollars or more per year, he must like many of us, display success before been awarded an extension. An extension, if he deserves it, should have taken place next year after the World Cup.

  1. Claudio Garcia chamorro
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 8:04 a.m.
    Should JK failed to do well in Brasil, Gulati should walk. We couldn't eve beat some Central American teams .... Even with the German influx of players ... Limited minded still think and believe that there is no real talent inside the US.

  1. Garrett Isacco
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 8:13 a.m.
    I think this is a good move. Jurgen has been very good for US Soccer. If you view the sorry state of affairs in Mexico with 4 coaches in 4 months, this solid situation in the US bodes well for us. Great decision that I heartily applaud.

  1. Che Guevara
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 8:27 a.m.
    JK has been good but has not merited this extension yet. At the very least his mark on the youth side should be very clear whitch I dont think is unlesss he is working secretly bhind the scenes. The men's side has been descent but if you pick a Mexican National Team ex player as USA's Head Coach I think you would see even better results there. All he would do is pick more Mexicans along with more Argentinians and Brazilians !! That fits a little better our player pool. Dont you think??

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 9:33 a.m.
    I think its' a great move. It keeps the continuity of the program intact.And I think overall we have seen an improvement in the quality of play and the depth of the team. Besides, just because he has a 4 year contract doesn't mean he can't be fired.

  1. ebune ayenuwa
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.
    The extension of JK contract is a good decision in the right direction by the US soccer federation, It is a welcome development,A good omen for America soccer entirely. please i want the US soccer loving enthusiast to expect good day for it's soccer and players.. Thanks

  1. Winston Reyes
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 9:42 a.m.
    Fine,but what about the youth program?,still waiting for an American 10

  1. Jeff EAst
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.
    the history of US soccer doesnt mean a thing, each year the teams get better. the history books are still being written. regardless of the world cup klinnsman has been the best coach we have ever had. in 10yrs someone else will be. the timing makes sense with me, you got a crappy group and he can already see that he will want one more shot. cant wait for russia!

  1. Joseph Pratt
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 11:24 a.m.
    I like the decision, as it establishes a long-term foundation, something the US program has sorely lacked. We need stability and a consistency of approach, and must be disciplined to stick with it even though short term results might not be great at times. Signing Klinsmann helps put us on this path. But to say that he has had anything to do with building our youth programs is disingenuous at best. I know that he showed up at a youth showcase within the last couple of months to address the players, but it's unrealistic to expect that he would have any impact on youth soccer in the US. Does he go around to clubs telling them to implement the much-vaunted USSF Coaching Curriculum? Most coaches I know have never read the thing, sadly. (And the USSF never got around to publishing the related training activities document that Reyna promised in his presentation). There is not much he can do at the youth level. So, kudos to Klinsmann, but let's not pretend he's superman.

  1. Nate Nelson
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.
    Anyone know if he received a raise? he is ONLY making 2.5 million now? But what is Gulati earning? and Flynn? isn't he over a million a year tax deferred? WTF? what are they doing?

  1. Robert Heinrich
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 12:28 p.m.
    It's players, not coaches who make National Teams competitive at a high level. I think Klinsmann knows professional soccer very well and can do as much as any national team coach can to help our players continue to develop their careers. He's a good face for US Soccer right now. His positive affability fits with our American "can do" optimism.

  1. Eric Kristensson
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 12:36 p.m.
    Two interrelated items and a point about this important article: 1) "begging the question" and "raising the question" are used as synonyms here. but there is a difference; the former denotes a circular form of reasoning in which one presupposes one's answer; the latter means simply "brings the question to mind." Ok so big deal. I am not the grammar police, and the two phrases ARE commonly used synonymously. But identifying the circular logic underlying questions like "why now" (by pointing out the difference) does help point to the real tension, i.e. that between those who favor a short-term, analytical/practical solution vs. those who favor a bigger, more systematic vision. 2) J├╝rgen Klinnsman is the dream coach for Americans who favor the bigger view encompassing long-term change. He may or may not be such to those who favor the more analytical view that there is a clear short term answer to winning a World Cup. I love this extension because it is a huge gesture of faith in Klinsmann's vision. It bodes well for our UNIQUE situation in the greater soccer world. Let the short-sighted criticize Klinsmann's mentality in the same way so many Germans criticized him for being "too American" (i.e. "not German enough" in his mindset) in 2006 (BEFORE the World Cup). This is not a time to be short-sighted regarding US Soccer. So good to see our leadership feels the same way, because we need leaders who can consistently pull us out of complacency. Klinsmann is that kind of leader.

  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 12:51 p.m.
    Isn't this pre-mature for a extension or even a raise? Particularly when we have yet to see results from the World Cup?

  1. Thomas Brannan
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 1:04 p.m.
    Regarding, "why now, four more years". Who else would want it other than an MLS coach. A few years ago Houllier and others names were mentioned. They didn't want it. Having said that there are still other people who might be around who would want it and be quality. Refer to Leo Beenhaker when Trinidad and Tobago found him. He turned it around quick. Does the Federation want Klinsman to keep the German/(Americans ?) coming in because there has been little production on the part of the youth of this country. Nothing against anyone but the youth curriculum was drawn up by a Spaniard. Why don't we have anyone that can sit down and put it together. I agree with Winston Reyes: still waiting for an American 10. It's all about development. Scottish FA study: if you don't have it by 15 you are not going to get it.

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 2:21 p.m.
    This has a disaster written all over it. And I'm so sick and tired of hearing about the best year record in 2013. Yeah, let's schedule more games against the likes of Belize, Cuba, Guatemala at home, and we'll have an even better record. To me much more indicative of where the US national team is now are the two recent games against mediocre European sides, Scotland and Austria. The US looked pathetic and couldn't score a goal. Yet, the USSF prefers to talk about the Gold Cup and CONCACAF wins. We won't be playing Belize and Cuba next summer in Brazil!

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 2:55 p.m.
    Good move. Success at the WC for a mid-table team depends on "luck of the draw", quite literally. Overall soccer in this country is progressing, more in quantity than quality, but it is progressing. And no one has mentioned the fact that with a charismatic German coach, who could really really bring it on the pitch, young players with a choice as to what country they will represent, now have a reason to choose the US. Can you spell Aron Johannson? (I can't, but you know who I mean.) He's doing all he can with the players he inherited, and doing what he can to bring in new ones. What more do you expect? Plus they give him quality face time on TV, and that gives soccer a more positive image in this country, and that with time may attract those stellar athletes who have about five other choices in this country. If even 10% of the best athletes in this country chose soccer at the age of 10, we would rock.

  1. David Huff
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 4:26 p.m.
    Ein Volk, Ein USA, Ein Klinsmann!! Sehr gut! :-)

  1. David Huff
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 4:56 p.m.
    Well-said Allan Lindh, bravo!

  1. stewart hayes
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 9:21 p.m.
    Does anyone know the exact contract language? I imagine he can still be fired and the USSF may not be on the hook for the full amount. Perhaps this is just a publicity stunt of sorts; a way to bolster the public image of the coach. I say if the players operate without long term contracts the coaching staff to be treated the same.

  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: December 14, 2013 at 3:16 a.m.
    Great move by the USSF. Now that Klinsman knows he is coming back, he has the freedom to attack Germany and Portugal instead of bunkering in to get to the second round. And anyone upset at his pay should take a peek at MLS DP money. You can have Mista, Denilson, and Kenny Miller, or Klinsmann. We throw away a lot of money, but none of the money spent on Klinsmann is a waste.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: December 14, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
    I like JK and think he's generally done a good job. But I'm glad Paul pointed out the irony of a coach who believes players thrive on competition and no one having a sure spot having his future assured just prior to his biggest test (the WC). Yes, the US has a very tough draw and no, the coach should not bear the full responsibility for team performance, but all great soccer powers measure their national team coach's performance by how they do at the WC. Do we not consider ourselves equal to those powers, or is this just another case of American exceptionalism. Time will tell....

  1. Tom Tani
    commented on: December 14, 2013 at 6:17 p.m.
    Just counting down until we see the next Paul Gardner anti Klinsmann diatribe. Maybe he will pack it in, move South adn cover Mexico

  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: December 14, 2013 at 7:15 p.m.
    O dear...need to wait until the WC is over then make a decision. Also, the infrastructure in this country is a mess...that's Sunil's department. The MLS? Why do you think JK is searching overseas for Americans? He was a fantastic player though!


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