U.S. Soccer narrows scope of new sporting director's position while search continues

U.S. Soccer has the largest national team program in the world:

In all, 27 teams ...

Nine men's national teams (from MNT, U-23, U-20s all the way down to U-14s);
Nine women's national teams (from MNT, U-23, U-20s all the way down to U-14s); and
Nine extended national teams (beach soccer, futsal, CP, deaf, power).

That's a lot of teams to look after in what will be the focus of U.S. Soccer's new sporting director.

That represents a narrowing of the position, if you can believe that, held by Earnie Stewart, who stepped down as sporting director on Feb. 15 to take a position at Dutch club PSV.

Stewart was originally hired as men's general manager in June 2018, Kate Markgraf was hired as women's general manager in August 2019, and Stewart was moved into the position of sporting director at the same time. Brian McBride was five months later hired as men's general manager, a position he recently left.

For the job of sporting director, Stewart, who was paid considerably more than Markgraf is when he was men's GM, took on additional responsibilities overseeing U.S. Soccer's sporting side.

In a media call on Saturday afternoon after U.S. Soccer's National Council Meeting in San Diego, U.S. Soccer president Cindy Cone said the new sporting director will focus his or her attention national teams as well as the elite pathways and another person would be in charge of coaching education, referees and the youth and the adult amateur landscape with some overlap on things like scouting.

"We have 27 teams," said CEO JT Batson. "You're looking at player pools of thousands or low tens of thousands, coaching pools of hundreds, referee pools of hundreds. But as a organization, we also need to be thinking strategically around player pools of millions, coaching pools of hundreds of thousands, referee pools of hundreds of thousands. And those are very different skill sets. Those are very different types of things to be thinking about day to day. And we've actually gotten a lot of very positive feedback from folks in the interview process around the narrowing of focus to focusing on our national team programs because they feel like that is the sort of skill set that they would have and where they would be able to add the most value."

At Friday's board of directors meeting, Batson said the federation was in the interview process for the new sporting director and there was no change in the timeline -- to have a new sporting director in place before the Women's World Cup starts in July.

"We've been very pleased with the people who've raised their hand and the conversations we've had to date," he said on Saturday. "Some of the feedback is, we're a very unique organization, we have more national teams than anyone else in the world, and it's an awesome opportunity, but it's one that requires a level of sophistication. It's exciting, but also a lot of work. It's been great conversations. We've learned a lot so far from the process. It's been a global search. We've been interviewing people from all around the world. And we're excited about the traction we've made thus far."

Batson also said at the board meeting that there was no change in the plans to have the sporting director "drive the decision" on the selection of the next men's national team coach. (Cone has also said she would be involved in the hiring process.) Since Gregg Berhalter's contract expired at the end of 2022, Anthony Hudson has been serving as the USMNT interim coach.

Christian Pulisic recently told ESPN that the federation should not wait on the hiring of a new USMNT head coach and was not opposed to Berhalter being the coach, based on his success in the last cycle.

"We'll definitely consult the players," said Cone. "Obviously, we're not to that point yet as we're focused on hiring the sporting director, but just like we did on the women's side before he hired Vlatko [Andonovski as USWNT head coach], we'll do the same on the men's side."

Photo: JT Batson and Cindy Cone as recent extended national team event. Credit: Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos

3 comments about "U.S. Soccer narrows scope of new sporting director's position while search continues".
  1. humble 1, March 20, 2023 at 12:30 p.m.

    wow, make is seem like they are building rocket to the moon or something.  It is soccer.  Keep it it simple.  If it is too large, break it up.  Hire a coach for the bloody mens team - pronto - that is urgent screaming peice of business.  Figure the rest out afterward. What is in the water in Chicago House? 

  2. Mario DePaola replied, March 20, 2023 at 5:14 p.m.

    You are so right 

  3. Kevin Leahy, March 20, 2023 at 7:19 p.m.

    They have consult with lawyers first

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