April Heinrichs will step down as U.S. Soccer's youth women's national team director

After eight years in the position, April Heinrichs' tenure as U.S. Soccer Youth Women’s National Team Director will terminate at the end of this year.

Heinrichs' tenure included the launch of the Girls Development Academy in 2017 and an expansion of the women's youth national team program, with the hiring of full-time youth national team coaches.

The USA, however, managed only one youth World Cup title since 2011, the 2012 U-20 Women's World Cup title under Coach Steve Swanson. The latest U-20 cycle ended with a first-round exit, at the 2018 U-20 World Cup under Coach Jitka Klimkova, after the USA finished second to Mexico in the Concacaf Championship.

The U.S. U-17 girls also failed to advance in their group at the latest World Cup, in 2016 under Coach B.J. Snow. They failed to qualify in 2014 and exited in the first round in 2012.

Heinrichs clashed with U.S. college coaches when members of the U.S. 2016 World Cup U-20 roster were required by U.S. Soccer to red-shirt their fall semester that year. A number players opted to play college ball instead and the USA finished fourth under Michelle French at the 2016 U-20 World Cup.

Heinrichs also became a lightning rod for critics of U.S. Soccer during the turf war with the ECNL following the launch of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The ECNL claimed U.S. Soccer pressured players to join DA clubs.

A World Cup winner as a player in 1991 and Olympic gold medal-winning coach in 2004, Heinrichs became Technical Director in January 2011.

“April Heinrichs is a world champion as a player, a coach and an administrator,” U.S. Soccer Secretary General/CEO Dan Flynn said. “She is a pioneer for the women’s game who never hesitated to share her knowledge and experience for the betterment of others and for that we are all appreciative.

In all, Heinrichs has been involved in 20 Women’s World Cup, Olympic Games or youth World Cup tournaments as a player, coach, scout, or member of the FIFA Technical Study group.

“Looking back starting in 1985 as a player and then head coach of our Women’s National Team in the early 2000s, it was a dream come true in every conceivable way,” said Heinrichs. “And then to have eight years as Director of our Youth National Teams, working with our nation’s best and brightest players and coaches, I can’t imagine a better profession. It’s a privilege every time you represent the USA, every time you step on the team bus and at every training session. I’ve done it for so many years and now is a good time for someone else to do it.”

5 comments about "April Heinrichs will step down as U.S. Soccer's youth women's national team director".
  1. R2 Dad, October 9, 2018 at 3:52 a.m.

    Headline says she was Team Director, Wiki says Technical Director--which is it? Thanks for your service, but when you admit "now is a good time for someone else to do it", maybe that should have been in 2016 when kickball coach Michelle French underperformed while playing what the English call "agricultural" soccer.

  2. Bob Ashpole, October 9, 2018 at 5:29 p.m.

    Heinrichs had an unsurpassed career as player, coach and technical director. Youth silverware doesn't matter. She has left the women's program in great shape.

    The success of youth teams should be judged by how many senior players they produce. The women's side is different. The really standout teens are already identified and play with the senior team by age 16, skipping the youth teams. Other women break into the senior team much later and may not have played for a youth team. While the paths to the senior team vary, the players share a self-motivated desire to excel.

    The WNT is strong. Ellis is a brilliant coach. They have more starters than space in the roster. Only a very few nations have men's teams in that situation. No one else has a comparable women's pool.

    I suspect USSF is finally going to get around after this cycle to hiring a GM for the WNT and implementing their reoganization to a "partnership committee" approach. Ellis and Heinrichs will be a very tough act for a management committee to follow up. I fear they could easily screw up the program next cycle.      

  3. schultz rockne, October 9, 2018 at 9:57 p.m.

    "ECNL?" Please define and add background info.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, October 9, 2018 at 10:18 p.m.

    Elite Clubs National League preceded the DA. Some clubs initially switched to the girls DA and then switched back. Both DA programs take existing clubs away from existing leagues to form their program.

  5. uffe gustafsson, October 9, 2018 at 11:16 p.m.

    Ecnl are no different then any other club.
    except they are making players to be seen by college coaches. But it still a very expensive league to play in and only families with economic means can have their daughters to join ecnl teams.
    and Ofcourse the same old they have big rosters to bring in money even though they end up with lots of bench warmers because of the prestige of playing ecnl team. Think DA is no difference very expensive to join those teams. Think $8k and more.

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