Kate Markgraf's plate will be overflowing at U.S. Soccer

Kate Markgraf described the hiring process for U.S. Soccer's new position of women's national team general manager as "rigorous" but "enjoyable" with an emphasis on the latter in saying she wouldn't have accepted the women's GM position and left her job as an ESPN women's soccer analyst if the new job felt like work.

That view will certainly be tested. Her plate will be overflowing when she gets to Soccer House in Chicago ...

-- She'll have to hire a replacement for Jill Ellis, the only coach to lead her team to back-to-back Women's World Cup titles.

-- She'll have to oversee a women's national team currently involved in litigation with the federation that's become a national political issue.

-- She'll have to oversee, in the general manager's new duties, the management of all the youth national teams on the women's side, filling a string of vacancies.

-- She'll have to lead the creation of what U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro termed "Vision 2027," the vision for the future of the program and she'll be "central to the discussion," according to Cordeiro, of its bid to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup.

Where does Markgraf begin?

The hiring of a new women's national team coach will come first. Olympic qualifying to determine the two Concacaf finalists in the 12-team women's soccer field in Japan next summer is likely to be held in February 2020.

In a segment on ESPN the same day as Ellis announced she was stepping down, Markgraf said the likely coaching candidates were Laura Harvey (Utah Royals), Paul Riley (North Carolina Courage), Vlatko Andonovski (Reign FC) and Mark Krikorian (Florida State). That's a good core of candidates to pick from.



The first three are veteran NWSL coaches, the fourth is a college coach with, as Markgraf noted, lots of international connections. The 2019 NWSL season ends a lot later than usual -- the NWSL final won't be until Oct. 27 -- so an NWSL coach would likely not be available to work with the team until the end of October. (The final FIFA women's window of 2019 is Nov. 4-12.)

Markgraf, who will oversee the search for a new women's national team coach, said the hiring process will be about finding the best candidate for the job.

"Our goal is to have that position filled as quickly as possible but not at the determent of not picking the right person,” she said during a conference call with the media on Monday afternoon. “As far as it related to men and women and the selection, we of course would consider both candidates but I would of course like to hire a woman if all things are equal. In the end, it will come down to the best candidate regardless of gender.”

On Monday, U.S. Soccer also announced that it created a new position of sporting director, to be filled by current men's general manager, Earnie Stewart, and the men's and women's general managers will report directly to him. The men's and women's general managers -- in a switch from the role played by Stewart as men's GM -- will be responsible for not just the senior national teams but also the youth national teams under them.

The problem is, the vast majority of full-time head coaching positions on the national teams on the men's and women's sides -- from U-23 to U-14 -- are vacant and have been that way for a while now. That's a particular issue on the women's side, where the U-16 to U-20 head coaches are all listed as "TBD" in the 2019 U.S. Soccer women's media guide. There are two world championships in 2020 -- the U-20 Women's World Cup in Nigeria and U-17 Women's World Cup in India -- with Concacaf qualifying slated to be held in 2019.

"I'll be in charge of that as it stands right now," Stewart said of the youth national team hiring. "As the men's national team GM, formerly now, I was involved in at least conversations that we were having. You can understand that in the last couple of weeks that has been put on hold with what we were trying to accomplish on this side. And now we will go full-steam ahead when it comes to actually speaking to candidates and appointing candidates for the youth national team head coaching jobs. And actually that is underway as we speak right now. That has been underway under [chief soccer officer] Asher Mendelsohn and [chief sport development officer] Nico Romeijn and we are hopeful that within a couple of months that we will have those positions filled."

6 comments about "Kate Markgraf's plate will be overflowing at U.S. Soccer".
  1. Kevin Leahy, August 13, 2019 at 11:16 a.m.

    The management layers get thicker by the day! Is this so, no one is responsible for anything? 

  2. R2 Dad, August 13, 2019 at 12:10 p.m.

    Seems like Carlos is upping the managmenting.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, August 13, 2019 at 2:25 p.m.

    What Carlos has done is for the first time ever put someone (Stewart) in charge of the WNT program that has zero experience of women's soccer. 

    USSF doesn't want change. They selected Markgraf because they think she will not be an agent of change. They changed their management structure to make Stewart the WNT GM's boss to ensure that Markgraf is not an agent of change.

    Horror of horrors, they want the WNT program to be run exactly like the MNT program.

    Is there a successful college coach out there that is willing to take a head coach position with less independence than a volunteer parent coach? Not to mention having to live in Chicago on their USSF salary. 

    Sure having a chance to coach the best women's team in the world is a dream opportunity, but not being able to run the program would likely be extremely frustrating to someone that was running a college program.

    I hope the situation turns out better than it looks.

  4. Ric Fonseca replied, August 13, 2019 at 5:04 p.m.

    Hey gents, as far as I can recall, this type of management has always been in the upper, middle and at times, lower echelons of US Soccer.  So, pilgrim, way back in the day.... nah, I won't bore you with personal historical tidbits drawon from my seven-year sting as a district commissioner with the CalifYouthSA (then known as Cal South-Youth - or CYSA) that was battling the nascent and volunteerism driven ayso, eventually threatening and challenging US Soccer and US Youth Soccer in court to force the USSF to recognize ayso, yada-yada, with USSF relenting and granting ayso full youth recognition and status, ad nauseaum. And now that we have a new US Soccer sheriff in town, with a couple deputies or so, heck, lets let them do their job, and we continue doing as before.  So what if there are new rules and regs, only thing I do chafe at is their penchant or desire to bring over those guys from accross the pond, UKers, Dutch, or what not.  For crying out loud, since the very early '70s, we've been saying that soon enough we'll have our very own to elevate, and so there win't be any need for the importation of coaches from where-ever.  I say, hire Ms. Harvey as HC/WNT, nd tell the other guys, gracias, but no thanks.  CONGRATULATIONS TO MARKGRAF!!!!  

  5. Bill Dooley, August 13, 2019 at 12:21 p.m.

    My favorite (okay, "only"). KateQuote: "You can always find ways to get it done."  

    She'll need plenty of that to sort out the cluster she's entering.  Go for it, Kate.

  6. Mark Landefeld, August 13, 2019 at 4:30 p.m.

    The open coaching vacancies are troubling as is the requirement that these HC's operate from Chicago.  In a country this vast, that's promoting a degree of control and group-think than may well eradicate gains made in the past.  I think our YNT staffs have generally been pretty collegial and unselfish.  The Chicago residency requirement will shrink a pool of candidates that needs to be as broad as the demographics of the nation it serves.  Let these new layers of rmanagement travel out to work with their staff.  Don't assume that a cubicle culture like Silicon Valley is the best collaboration for our NT programs.

    Good luck to Markgraf -- she's been impressive as an anlalyst. (BTW, her cameo in "the '99ers" should be a gif or avatar, *L*)

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