Could the Next USMNT Coach Come From Major League Soccer?

 Given all of the hoopla and perceived uncertainty of Jurgen Klinsmann’s status with the USMNT, I felt it would be worthwhile to explore possible successors. Considering that this is a web site devoted to Major League Soccer, I focused primarily on those within the MLS coaching pool.

Gregg Berhalter, 42 years old (Head Coach, Columbus Crew SC)
Case For:
Berhalter began his coaching career with the LA Galaxy as a player-coach in 2011. In 2012 he transitioned to his first head coaching position with Swedish club Hammarby IF, where he became the first American club manager within a top-ranked European federation. Berhalter posted a record of 18-11-16 in two seasons at the helm, securing points for his club in 34 of his 45 matches. In November of 2013, Gregg made his way back to MLS being named head coach of Columbus Crew SC. In two full seasons with the Crew he amassed a 29-21-18 record, including an appearance in the 2015 MLS Cup Final.

During Berhalter’s playing career, the central defender earned 44 National team appearances, including participation in the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup tournaments. He also played in the 1999 and 2003 Confederations Cups. He concluded his playing days having appeared in 350+ professional matches in both the United States and Europe.

Case Against: Berhalter is still quite green as a coach; with that in mind it is unlikely that Berhalter would be a viable candidate today. Though, if Jurgen hangs on to his job through the 2018 World Cup cycle, a few more successful seasons could bode well for a prospective candidacy.

Jason Kreis, 43 years old (Unattached)
Case For:
With a combined MLS head coaching record of 112-95-67 between Real Salt Lake and NYCFC, Jason is one of the most successful managers in recent years.  He became the youngest coach in league history to win the MLS Cup – accomplishing the feat at the ripe age of 36. Kreis also guided Real Salt Lake to the CONCACAF Champions League knockout round during the 2010-11 season. Additionally, he led RSL to six straight playoff appearances, including two MLS Cup appearances and capturing the title in 2009. 

As a player for the USMNT, he earned 14 caps and scored 1 goal. Kreis made over 300 professional appearances through his MLS career and was voted MLS League MVP in 1999. Kreis is currently sixth on the all-time MLS goal scoring list with 108 goals.

Case Against: The sports industry is undoubtedly a “what have you done for me lately” world, and Kreis’s most recent head coach run with NYCFC was not phenomenal. Leading an expansion club to a 10-17-7 record isn’t necessarily terrible but the lofty expectations at NYCFC were certainly not met. While he was quite prolific on the field in MLS, his national team playing days were underwhelming, some may wonder if the same fate would follow him as national team manager.

Jesse Marsch, 42 years old (Head Coach, New York Red Bulls)
Case For:
Marsch’s first foray into coaching was as one of Bob Bradley’s assistants for the USMNT during the 2010 World Cup. During their first MLS season, Jesse was named the inaugural head coach of the Montreal Impact in 2012. He led the Impact to 12 victories, the most by an expansion club since 1998. After being unceremoniously let go after the inaugural season, Marsch found his next coaching gig in 2015 with the New York Red Bulls. His first season in charge of RBNY, Marsch was named MLS Coach of the Year after leading the club to the 2015 Supporters Shield, and the best regular season record in franchise history.

Jesse won three MLS Cups and four US Open Cup Championships with D.C. United, Chicago Fire and Chivas USA during his playing days. An MLS original, he made 321 appearances in 14 seasons, scoring 31 goals and contributing 40 assists. He also earned two caps with the USMNT.

Case Against: Similar to Berhalter, Marsch is not overly experienced at the professional level with less than 100 games as a head coach.  As I stated with Berhalter, if Klinsmann hangs on to his gig through the 2018 World Cup cycle, it would provide Marsch more time to develop and earn success.

Oscar Pareja, 47 years old (Head Coach, FC Dallas)
Case For:
Pareja served as an assistant coach with the United States U-17 men's national soccer team at the IMG Soccer Academy from 2007 to2008. Afterwards, he was appointed the Director of Player Development for the FC Dallas Youth system, quickly developing the program into one of the nation’s premier academies. During the 2010-2011 season, Pareja was named the U-18 Academy Coach of the Year, as he guided the U-18s to a runner-up finish at the national championship.

In 2011, Pareja was named assistant coach for the FC Dallas first team and head coach of the FC Dallas Reserves. After garnering notoriety and success, the Colorado Rapids named Oscar head coach of the club prior to the 2012 season. After posting two solid seasons, he re-joined FC Dallas in 2014, taking over as the teams head coach. In four seasons as an MLS head coach he compiled a record of 59-52-25 with three playoff appearances.

The former Colombian international tallied 3 goals while earning 11 caps with his national team. Over a decorated playing career, Pareja appeared in over 550 games, 170 of those were with FC Dallas, where he scored 13 goals and supplied 47 assists. 

Case Against: While Pareja is known for developing quality young players, he has yet to win anything noteworthy as a professional coach.

Caleb Porter, 41 years old (Head Coach, Portland Timbers)
Case For:
  Caleb Porter built one of the most successful college programs in recent NCAA history during his tenure as head coach at the University of Akron. From 2006 to 2012 his teams won 123 out of 158 college games.  During that stretch, he possessed the highest winning percentage (.832) among all active Division I coaches. Porter earned numerous honors while at Akron, including 2009 NSCAA National Coach of the Year.

Porter also served as the head coach of the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team during 2012 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying and spent three years as an assistant coach for the U.S. U-18 National Team from 2009 to 2011. After making the leap to the professional level in 2013, Porter was named the 2013 MLS Coach of the Year. Through three seasons, he has led the Timbers to a 41-25-36 MLS record (a .578 winning percentage).

Case Against: His disastrous tenure as U-23 Men’s National Team coach during the 2012 Olympic qualifying will inevitably be a blip on his resume. Failing to qualify for the Olympic Games was viewed as a major setback for US Soccer. Despite his MLS successes, it could be argued that Porter is still relatively inexperienced at the professional level. 

Sigi Schmid, 63 years old (Head Coach, Seattle Sounders SC)
Case For:
You will be hard-pressed to find a more experienced or successful coach in the United States than Sigi Schmid. Schmid began a successful 19-year run as head coach of the UCLA Bruins Men’s Soccer program in 1980. During that time, he led the Bruins to three national titles (1985, 1990, 1997). He was named national coach of the year following the 1997 championship. He accumulated a record of 322-63-33 in the college ranks.

Schmid has twice served as the U.S. U-20 National Team head coach, most recently in 2005 at the FIFA World Championships. Schmid was also an assistant to Bora Milutinovic for the 1994 USMNT World Cup team. He also was head coach for the 1991 World University Games and 1995 Pan American Games.

Additional accolades:
National Soccer Hall of Fame: 2015
MLS Coach of the Year Award: 1999, 2008
CONCACAF Champions' Cup: 2000
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Champion: 2001,2009,2010,2011,2014
MLS Supporters' Shield: 2002, 2008,2014
MLS Cup Champion: 2002, 2008
MLS all-time winning coach. Schmid ranks No. 1 in MLS career victories (207) and games coached (452). Overall, Schmid’s record in MLS is 207-140-105. His combined postseason win total (24) is the second-highest in MLS history.

Case Against: Despite all of Schmid’s experience and accolades, to my knowledge US Soccer has never seriously considered Sigi for the USMNT managerial position. At 63, has his time passed? Furthermore, is such a position still of interest to Sigi?

Peter Vermes, 49 years old (Head Coach, Sporting Kansas City)
Case For:
Peter Vermes was appointed Technical Director for Sporting KC (then known as the Kansas City Wizards) in November of 2006. He was initially named interim manager of the club on August 4, 2009 and has been the head man ever since. Vermes has won three major trophies – the 2012 and 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups and the 2013 MLS Cup– as well as two MLS Eastern Conference regular season titles (2011, 2012). He is the only person to ever win the MLS Cup as both a player and coach. Across all competitions, Vermes holds a 113-79-61 record as the Sporting KC head coach.

His professional playing career spanned 15 seasons and numerous leagues. He was awarded MLS Defender of the Year honors in 2000, while helping lead the Wizards to the 2000 MLS Cup Championship. Vermes earned 66 Caps with USMNT and was a member of the 1990 USMNT World Cup team.

Case Against: I imagine some within US Soccer would prefer an international pedigree for the USMNT’s next manager, a quality that Vermes obviously does not possess. Beyond such a stipulation, I fail to see many drawbacks to his candidacy.

Additional Candidates

Bruce Arena – LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, USMNT 2006 & 2002 World Cup, DC United, 5 X MLS Cup Winner

Marcelo Bielsa
– Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, Chile 2010 World Cup, Argentina 2002 World Cup
Bob Bradley – Le Havre, Stabaek, Egypt, USMNT 2010 World Cup, Metrostars , Chicago Fire 1998 MLS Cup Winner
Andi Herzog – USMNT assistant coach, US U-23 Head Coach, Austria assistant coach
Tab Ramos – USMNT assistant coach, US U-20 Head Coach

What do you think of the list of potential candidates? Who am I missing? Let us know in the comments down below. Or contact me on Twitter: @mikecrosky