[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
"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.