USA coach Gregg Berhalter fired after Copa América failure

Gregg Berhalter has been fired as manager of the United States men’s national team, effective immediately, the U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed Wednesday.

The announcement comes in the wake of the team’s poor showing at the 2024 Copa América, in which the hosts failed to get past the group stage after defeats to Uruguay and Panama.

It was the first time in the Americans’ five appearances in the CONMEBOL event that they failed to advance out of the group stage. It was also the first time they were eliminated from the group stage of a World Cup, Copa América or Gold Cup that they hosted.

The hope had been that the Americans would use the tournament as a springboard to greater success at the 2026 World Cup, which the U.S. is co-hosting with Canada and Mexico. Instead, the performances at the Copa América revealed how little progress the USMNT has made since the 2022 World Cup.

The decision to remove Berhalter was made by U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker after a 10-day review process, which included consultations with president Cindy Parlow Cone, CEO JT Batson, vice president of sporting Oguchi Onyewu and members of the board of directors.

Sources told ESPN that the review process included Michael Karon — who according to the USSF website is a member of its Professional League Task Force — polling board members over the past few days to see where they stood as it related to Berhalter’s performance and whether he should stay.

“I want to thank Gregg for his hard work and dedication to U.S. Soccer and our Men’s National Team,” Cone said in a statement. “We are now focused on working with our Sporting Director Matt Crocker and leveraging his experience at the highest levels of the sport to ensure we find the right person to lead the USMNT into a new era of on-field success.”

“The Copa America result is extremely disappointing and I take full responsibility for our performance,” Berhalter said in his own statement. “Our approach and process was always focused on the 2026 World Cup and I remain confident that this group will be one of the great stories in 2026.”

Crocker will lead the search for Berhalter’s replacement and has started the process.

“U.S. Soccer is committed to doing what is necessary to ensure our success on the pitch and we are dedicated to fostering a culture that leads to winning,” Crocker said in a statement. “Our immediate focus is on finding a coach who can maximize our potential as we continue to prepare for the 2026 World Cup, and we have already begun our search process.”

The failure at the Copa América tournament took on even more significance given that as hosts, there will be no World Cup qualifying matches to help U.S. team prepare for the tournament. The Copa was the last opportunity for the Americans to play competitive fixtures against teams from outside the Concacaf region.

The only other tournament that the national team will participate in between now and 2026 is the 2025 Concacaf Gold Cup. The upcoming September international window will see the U.S. square off against Canada and New Zealand.

“We’ve got to win. And we didn’t achieve that from our perspective,” Crocker said in a conference call with reporters. “But when I do look at the work and the effort that Gregg has put in and other staff have put into the program over the last five years, I wanted to make sure that I really took my time and was decisive with my decision-making that at the time I felt was right and not being driven by anybody else.

“I think five years is a long time and there’s been a lot of building blocks that have been put in place. It was a very, very young group, originally, and here has been progress made, but now is the time to turn that progress into, into winning.

“There’s been progress in the group, but that progress hasn’t translated into enough wins in that tournament, which is pretty critical.”

Expectations for the USMNT have increased since its respectable showing at the 2022 World Cup, where it reached the round of 16 with the youngest team in the tournament as weighted by minutes played.

Berhalter was rehired as the team’s coach in June 2023 on a contract through the 2026 World Cup, following a six-month investigation sparked by a rift with the family of U.S. player Giovanni Reyna. But since then, the Americans have struggled to show improvement.

They barely got by Jamaica in the semifinals of the Concacaf Nations League in March, when an own-goal in second half stoppage time helped them escape with a victory in extra time. The Americans also fell to Trinidad and Tobago in the second leg of the quarterfinals of that competition, though they progressed on aggregate.

These results, taken together, increased calls for Berhalter to be replaced. On the night of the U.S. team’s elimination, Crocker, who wasn’t present at the Uruguay match due to a long-planned family commitment, announced that a review process would commence to evaluate the performance of Berhalter and the team.

Ultimately, Crocker decided to relieve Berhalter.

Big international names like Jürgen Klopp, Thierry Henry, Marcelo Bielsa and Mauricio Pochettino are among those being speculated about as candidates to replace Berhalter, along with MLS coaches Steve Cherundolo and Wifried Nancy.

Berhalter earned $2,291,136 in 2022, including $900,000 in bonuses for the Americans qualifying for the World Cup and reaching the second round. A top-level men’s coach could put pressure on the USSF to increase the salary of newly hired women’s coach Emma Hayes.

However, Crocker said that salary would not be a major hurdle, with the target to have Berhalter’s successor in place by the time of the USMNT’s September friendlies.

“I know it’s a really competitive market out there salary-wise, and we have to be competitive to get the level of coach that I believe can take the program forward in terms of achieving the results that we need to do on the field,” Crocker added.

“But I’m also really conscious that we need to continue to drive for higher standards and equality. But I don’t think that’s going to be a stumbling block in terms of our investment, our national team is a priority. It’s something we’re prepared to invest in and something that we will be investing in.

“I just want to get the best coach possible and whether they’re from the U.S. or elsewhere, they’ve got to fit the profile, which is a serial winning coach, somebody that can continue to develop this potential group of players.”

Berhalter, a former U.S. international as a player, was hired in December of 2018, after having spent the previous five seasons with the Columbus Crew. But he was hired while his brother, Jay, was the chief commercial officer at the U.S. Soccer Federation, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest.

Following the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Berhalter set about rebuilding the team with a new generation of players, and a new style based heavily on possession. The results were uneven, but ultimately positive.

The U.S. lost the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup final to Mexico, and also lost during the group stage to Canada in the 2020 Concacaf Nations League. Thanks to an evolution to a more pragmatic style, the U.S. ultimately recovered to claim that title, as well as the two subsequent CNL crowns.

World Cup qualifying had similar difficulties. The team ultimately qualified for the 2022 World Cup, though that wasn’t secured until the final day of qualifying, with the U.S. finishing third in Concacaf qualifying on goal differential.

Yet Berhalter and the team have failed to build on the promise of the 2022 World Cup, and now he finds himself out of a job.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.