U.S. Soccer officially announced the departures of sporting director Earnie Stewart and USMNT general manager Brian McBride today, with both choosing to explore other opportunities. The move comes as the federation continues to investigate Gregg Berhalter and other "potential inappropriate behavior," which has been widely reported to come from Claudio and Danielle Reyna.
The USMNT also remains in the midst of its January camp, having just lost to Serbia 2-1 Wednesday night. Anthony Hudson, who is leading the camp, will remain as interim head coach until U.S. Soccer names a permanent manager.
Choosing the next head coach is one of the federation's most important decisions moving forward as the country is set to host the 2026 World Cup. The coaching search has been overshadowed by the Berhalter-Reyna drama, and now two of the executives responsible for that search are gone.
With the team continuing to play while uncertainty reigns off the field, here is what we do know about the future of U.S. Soccer and the USMNT.
Stewart and McBride's Departures
Stewart has accepted a position as the director of football for Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands. He oversaw all aspects of U.S. Soccer during the last four years, while McBride was only responsible for the USMNT.
"The decisions of Stewart and McBride were made independently of each other and were not impacted by U.S. Soccer’s process for naming the next USMNT head coach or the ongoing investigation," the federation announced. Stewart is likely a focal point of that investigation, as he was the one Danielle Reyna talked to about Berhalter's past domestic violence incident.
“When the opportunity arose to return to the Netherlands to pursue an exciting and challenging role that was near my family, I could not turn it down,” Stewart said in a statement.
McBride's next step has not been announced, but he made the decision to leave prior to the World Cup last November.
The Hiring Process
With three positions now needing to be filled, U.S. Soccer says the focus will first be on replacing Stewart. The new sporting director will then be directly responsible for choosing the next USMNT head coach. Parlow Cone said in a press conference that she hopes to have positions filled by the end of the summer.
Outside company Sportsology Group has been retained to lead the search for a new sporting director. The company will also work with U.S. Soccer to identify possible coaching candidates in hopes that the new sporting director can move quickly in naming a head coach.
Sportsology has overseen a variety of sports executive decisions in recent years. Examples include advising LAFC's expansion into MLS, aiding the development of FC Cincinnati's academy and hiring executives at Orlando City and the Chicago Fire.
U. S. Soccer CEO & Secretary General JT Batson will oversee operations in absence of a sporting director. He is also leading a sporting review of the USMNT, which the federation conducts after every World Cup cycle.
Gregg Berhalter's Status
An important part of Batson's review will be analyzing the effectiveness of Berhalter and his staff, which could determine whether Berhalter is a candidate for head coach moving forward. In January, when the domestic violence investigation was announced, Parlow Cone, Batson and Stewart held a press conference, where it was made clear that Berhalter remained a possibility for the job, pending the outcome of the personal conduct investigation and the sporting review.
The sporting review is what initially necessitated an interim manager for the January camp, a decision that U.S. Soccer leadership said was made ahead of the World Cup. Normally, when the World Cup is in the summer, the sporting review would be completed by the end of the year, allowing a coaching hire to be made before January. Given the unique circumstances of a November/December tournament, U.S. Soccer was always planning on having an interim this January.
There is no specific timeline for the Berhalter investigation, which is being run by Alston & Bird LLP. However, Parlow Cone said she hopes that process to be completely as quickly as possible, as the outcome could influence the search for a head coach.
The USMNT will conclude its January camp this weekend, but there are plenty of competitions upcoming throughout the year. Nations League matches against El Salvador and Grenada will take place the last week of March, with the Nations League final taking place in June (assuming the U.S. tops its group).
The 2023 Gold Cup will take place throughout June and July, with the final scheduled for July 16 in Los Angeles. While this year's competitions will likely be used to explore new talent for the pool, the U.S. will still want to win trophies, especially if the final is against Mexico. There may not be key leaders in place along the way, but individual players can still make an impression on whoever ends up in charge.