U.S. Soccer announced he will coach USMNT at 2026 World Cup

By Official Florida FC

U.S. Soccer announced Gregg Berhalter will return as U.S. men’s soccer coach on Friday afternoon.

Berhalter has a 37-11-12 record as USMNT head coach. That run included two Gold Cup titles, the CONCACAF Nations League and helping the USMNT advance to the Round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup.

On its face, the resume and record look impressive. But, being outcoached against the Netherlands in the Round of 16 at the World Cup and picking up one road point, in three matches, against CONCACAF’s best teams in World Cup qualifying tell another story.

During World Cup qualifying the USMNT did not always appear to be locked in for a full 90 minutes. Whether it was conceding early goals, throwing away clean sheets in the waning minutes or mistakes that were not punished, it was a trend that a manager should correct either on the training ground or through playing time. Berhalter appeared unwilling to do either.

The USMNT has players who have won the Champions League and Ligue 1. It has others on the books at big clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal. This is a golden generation and a golden opportunity to make a run at the 2026 World Cup on North American soil.

Bringing back a coach for a second cycle, without the crucible of World Cup qualifying matches, is a decision that appears safe on the surface. It is one that has caused waves within some American soccer circles.

Let’s set aside the personal drama between Berhalter and Gio Reyna’s parents.

As spicy as it may be to assume the dynamic of the relationship between the coach and the parents of one of America’s best attacking talents, it’s better to keep analysis between the touchlines.

Gio Reyna should have played more than 52 minutes at the 2022 World Cup. That is inexplicable and unacceptable.

Gio Reyna during a CONCACAF Nations League match on Monday, March 27, 2023.
(Photo by Will Brown, Official Florida FC)

The best managers in international soccer find tactics that match their players. And, they are willing to bench players who may have big names, but whose presence does not benefit the entire system.

Argentina benched Lautaro Martinez after its opening loss to Saudi Arabia. France hauled off its all-time leading scorer, Olivier Giroud, before halftime of a World Cup final. Closer to CONCACAF, Costa Rica switched its system and its tactics after getting throttled by Spain in its opening match and left the Middle East with their heads high.

It’s Costa Rica, we would like to focus on. Los Ticos were older and slower than the USMNT in qualification yet were able to produce the results they needed to qualify for the intercontinental playoff, and eventually, Qatar.

The scoreline will say the USMNT beat Costa Rica 2-1 in World Cup qualifying. But, a deeper analysis of the game will show the Americans conceded a sloppy early goal, got its starting XI wrong and scored its game-winning goal once Costa Rica’s captain Kaylor Navas hobbled out of goal with an injury.

Throughout World Cup qualifying, we asked who would be the USMNT No. 9 when the games began to matter.

Ricardo Pepi scored the only goal to help the United States men’s national team defeat El Salvador 1-0 to advance to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals. (Photo by Will Brown, Official Florida FC)

Berhalter asked Josh Sargent, Haji Wright and Jesus Ferriera to lead the line at a World Cup. Ferriera had a stellar 2022 season for his MLS Club. However, Sargent had not scored a goal for the USMNT in three years and Wright had never scored from open play at the international level when he was taken to Qatar.

Leaving Ricardo Pepi at home was puzzling at best. Is Pepi this generation’s version of Brian McBride or Jozy Altidore? That remains to be seen. But, he scored three goals in World Cup qualifying before his 19th birthday and took up positions that gave the USMNT a chance to create shots.

U.S. Soccer has indicated it wants the men’s program to be among the world’s best. To do so, it must develop a center forward.

Harry Kane, Giroud, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Cody Gakpo and Richarlison were among those who started at center forward for the quarterfinalists.

Andrej Kramarić started for Croatia in its quarterfinal win over Brazil. The 31-year-old may not have the name recognition as the aforementioned stars, but he scored four goals prior to the World Cup and two goals against Canada in the group stage.

Meanwhile, the three USMNT forwards who started in Qatar only scored one goal.

While a lot of that is due to talent, some of that can be overcome by selection and tactics. And, that is where Berhalter leaves a lot to be desired.