Gregg Berhalter is returning as coach of the U.S. men’s national team, the team announced Friday.
Berhalter led the U.S. through the last cycle and to the round of 16 in November’s FIFA World Cup. He will take over after the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which takes place from June 24-July 16. Current coach B.J. Callaghan will maintain his role with the USMNT through that event.
Gregg Berhalter has been chosen to lead the #USMNT to the 2026 FIFA World Cup » https://t.co/ObcP1tCbvH pic.twitter.com/c85nwVS9to
— U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (@USMNT) June 16, 2023
As the U.S. coach from 2019-22, Berhalter won the 2021 Nations League and Gold Cup trophies, qualified for the 2022 World Cup with the youngest team in the world and then got out of the group at the World Cup with strong performances against Wales, Iran and England. The Americans’ five points were tied with the 2010 team for most in a group stage by any USMNT at a World Cup.
Berhalter, 49, currently has the highest win percentage of any USMNT coach with a 37-11-12 record.
Berhalter’s return will come as a surprise to some considering the circumstances of his departure. While the U.S. performance in Qatar was largely praised and the U.S. was successful in his tenure despite fielding one of the youngest teams in the world, Berhalter’s contract was allowed to expire after the World Cup in part because of issues with one of the team’s young stars.
Winger Gio Reyna was nearly sent home from the World Cup due to his behavior after being informed he would not be a starter for the U.S. team in the opening game against Wales. Reyna’s lack of effort in subsequent training sessions nearly led to his dismissal from the team, but Berhalter opted to keep Reyna in Qatar.
After the tournament, however, he spoke about those issues without naming Reyna during the Q&A portion of a leadership conference that was operating under Chatham House rules, which typically meant any comments were off the record. Those comments were published, however, and The Athletic reported that Reyna was the player about whom Berhalter spoke.
After those stories, Reyna’s parents, former U.S. national players Claudio and Danielle Reyna, longtime friends of Berhalter and his wife, Rosalind Berhalter, reported to former U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart an incident from 30 years prior in which Berhalter kicked Rosalind during an argument when the two were freshmen at the University of North Carolina.
That prompted a U.S. Soccer investigation. The independent investigation eventually found that Berhalter was cleared to be re-hired by U.S. Soccer.
The U.S. played an aggressive, attractive brand of soccer under Berhalter in Qatar. The U.S. ranked eighth in field tilt in Qatar, behind teams like England, France and Argentina. Field tilt indicates one team’s share of both sides’ touches in the attacking third. The U.S. was efficient at its attacking movements getting into dangerous positions — when they were eliminated by the Netherlands, only three teams in the tournament had successfully taken a higher share of their possessions into the final third than the U.S.’s 46 percent. The U.S. also was quite good at winning the ball back in attacking positions after losing it, ranking fifth in the tournament in successful counter-pressing rate.
Multiple star players have come out in support of Berhalter returning as coach. Star winger Christian Pulisic told ESPN he was “not here to appoint the next manager” and “whoever it is, I’m gonna play and give 100 percent,” but when asked if he would be “reasonably content” if Berhalter returned as coach, Pulisic made his thoughts clear.
“Yeah, no doubt about it,” Pulisic said. “The strides we have taken in recent years with him appointed I think has been evident. I think it’s quite clear.”
Last week, winger Tim Weah told media, “Gregg has really kept us together… we are definitely a family and no one can take that away, you know. Gregg really helped us form this type of relationship with each other, so yeah, he was a huge, huge important part of this team so hopefully, yeah hopefully comes back.”
In an interview with The Athletic last week, left back Antonee Robinson reiterated those thoughts.
“A lot of people have touched on it — we all enjoyed the environment that Gregg created, we all thought he was a good coach, everyone could see the level of football that he had us play,” Robinson said. “And so there’s no reason for me why they wouldn’t have just tried to carry on with him. But unfortunately, that’s not up to the players. It’s up to U.S. Soccer as a federation. And I’m sure that they’re going to try their best to find whoever they think is the best fit for this team. And that’s the most important thing.”
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(Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran / USA Today)