As anniversary of qualifying failure looms, next USMNT coach still a mystery

Earnie Stewart Philadelphia Union

We stand just two weeks away from the anniversary of the U.S. national team's failure to qualify for the World Cup and not only has a new head coach not been chosen to lead the rebuilding program, there still hasn't been anybody interviewed.

Three weeks have gone by since USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart gave media his first detailed breakdown of the search for a new head coach.

At that time Stewart revealed that he had yet to interview any candidates and even admitted that the interview process could boil down to just one candidate if his top choice wound up taking the job.

Contrary to the report by Al Dia and the Dallas Morning News on Monday — which claimed FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja had been interviewed for the job — sources have confirmed to Goal that no candidates have been interviewed yet.

On Tuesday, Pareja denied having been interviewed by U.S. Soccer.

"Yes, I’ve heard a lot of news about the topic. I just want to make clear that I have not been interviewed or anything," Pareja told reporters on Tuesday. "That’s not something I would like to dig up because of respect for the federation and their process and also for respect for the club we have here.

"We have big responsibilities. First winning in Vancouver and now going to Portland and preparing this game that could confirm us in the playoffs. Our mind is here with our group and trying to accomplish that goal."

Though Pareja stopped short of admitting he had spoken to anyone from U.S. Soccer about the USMNT coaching position, a source told Goal that there has been preliminary contact with Pareja, but no interview has taken place.

Oscar Pareja FC Dallas MLSRon Chenoy

On Sunday, another coach believed to be a candidate for the USMNT position - Sporting Kansas City boss Peter Vermes - told Goal that he has had no contact with Stewart or anyone else at U.S. Soccer about the head coach position.

Vermes did confirm that he had discussions with U.S. Soccer officials about the USMNT general manager position, eventually filled by Stewart, as well as the head coach position during the spring.

Asked whether he would be interested in the head coaching position, Vermes stated that his focus was on Sporting Kansas City, but did offer some insight into his thoughts on the position.

"It's tough to say you're interested in a job when you don't really know what the job is," Vermes told Goal.

Peter Vermes Sporting Kansas City

The USMNT head coaching role will be very different to the one Jurgen Klinsmann held from 2011 to 2016. That period of time saw Klinsmann enjoy widespread control of the program, not only guiding the senior team, but having his say over the youth ranks as well.

U.S. Soccer's experience with Klinsmann in full control eventually helped lead to the creation of the general manager position, which Stewart took over on August 1, and Stewart has been working to craft the duties of the new head coaching position while he creates a profile for the ideal candidate to fill the role he's creating.

There is a widespread belief in American soccer circles that Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter is the favorite for the position, though one source told Goal on Tuesday that U.S. Soccer had yet to contact Berhalter or the Crew about the USMNT head coaching position.

Stewart rejected the notion that Berhalter being hired was a foregone conclusion, but the lack of contact with candidates such as Vermes and Pareja at this point in the process has only served to fuel speculation that Stewart is setting his sights on Berhalter.

How have we come to wait this long for U.S. Soccer to settle on a new coach?

The saga began last winter with the U.S. Soccer presidential election. The coaching search was put on hold until after the election, which Carlos Cordeiro won. Rather than dive into hiring a general manager and head coach beginning in March, Cordeiro jumped right into U.S. Soccer's push to secure the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup, which the United States did win in a joint bid with Mexico and Canada. Stewart was hired as general manager in June, a week before the 2026 World Cup hosting rights were won, but Stewart was unable to start his new role until August 1 while he satisfied his commitments to his previous employer, the Philadelphia Union.

Though 10 months had passed from the U.S. World Cup qualifying failure and Stewart starting his general manager role, Stewart essentially started his process of creating a profile for the ideal USMNT head coach from scratch, which has led us to wait another two to four months.

The drawn-out process to name a full-time coach has left USMNT fans, as well as some players, exasperated at a program that has been stuck in limbo for the better part of a year. Dave Sarachan, who was Bruce Arena's assistant when the team failed to qualify for the World Cup, has filled the caretaker coach role and is expected to maintain that position for the remaining four USMNT matches of the year, October's friendlies against Colombia and Peru, and the November friendlies against England and Italy. 

Stewart's description of the timetable for hiring the next USMNT coach — before the end of the year, and as early as November — falls in line with the hiring of an MLS coach. With Pareja, Vermes and Berhalter all expected to be taking part in the playoffs with their respective teams, Stewart could wind up having to wait until after the MLS Cup final in December to interview and hire the next USMNT head coach.

If that happens, it will take the overall coaching search process well past a calendar year, a time frame that is hard to defend, and a time period nobody could have imagined when the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup almost a full year ago.