Will Gregg Berhalter be the United States coach at the 2026 World Cup?
DOHA, Qatar – About two hours after the final whistle and the end of their World Cup, the players of the United States men’s national team returned to the Kempinski Hotel in Doha, their home for the three weeks previous ones. They went through the back entrance and made their way to their dining room one last time as a unit.
Post-game meals during the tournament were generally presented in a catering style, with different kitchens set up in stations around the Grand Ballroom, and this one was heavy on Americana. As the players feasted on wings, burgers and fries, USA coach Gregg Berhalter stood up at the front of the room and gave a brief speech. He thanked the players and the staff. He told them how proud he was. Then he asked everyone to take a moment and look around.
“This band – this exact band,” he said, “will never be together like this again.”
His message was clear: Yes, there will be more great moments in the future, but not with this specific collection of people. Berhalter wanted everyone to appreciate the meaning of this moment.
– 2022 World Cup: News and files | Program
The players dispersed in the day after the tournament ended for them, and their next steps are pretty clear as club football resumes in earnest almost immediately. For Berhalter, however, what comes next is murkier. His contract with US Soccer expires at the end of the year. Does the federation want him back? Is he want to to return?
Sources have told ESPN that negotiations are about to start between US Soccer and Berhalter, and there are early indications he will stay if offered. There’s a sense that this team was his project – he literally brought several of his key players into the American football fold – and that seeing it end naturally at the 2026 World Cup, which the United States is co-hosting with Canada and Mexico, is attractive.
But one source acknowledged it was still very early in the process, and other sources indicated there was interest from Berhalter in exploring European club options as his coaching stock is likely to be low. at a high level. This juxtaposition – what Berhalter wants and how that compares to what is best for this team of talented young players – is now the biggest question facing the federation.
Additional reporting by Kyle Bonagura.
Arguments in favor of keeping Berhalter
From the perspective of the federation and the average USMNT fan, the potential for Team USA has never been higher. Many of the best players who have played in Qatar will be in what should be the first of their careers at the 2026 World Cup, and so finding a coach who can bring the best out of them at that time is the biggest qualifying all the time. candidate needs.
The fact that there is likely to be no World Cup qualification – and therefore few genuinely competitive matches – in this cycle could make the job less attractive, and given Berhalter’s established player relationships , this could help maintain momentum.
The way Berhalter led his team at this World Cup certainly supports the idea that he knows how to unlock the best in his players and motivate a young group. In Qatar, he tried to do everything he could to make everyone feel comfortable. Sometimes it was through rhetoric: Before the opener, he brought in a popular motivational speaker, Eric Thomas, whose personal story is about the power of belief. Sometimes he used more active measures to encourage team bonding: the players’ lounge was filled with all sorts of distractions, including a barber’s chair so players could get their hair cut while they hung out, and a barista who arrived every afternoon.
Berhalter also made family time a priority, knowing it would be important to keep his young players comfortable. Even though it was the most compressed a World Cup had ever been, with all 48 group stage matches taking place over 13 days, the US team had opening hours during which players could go to the beach or the swimming pool with their families. There was a barbecue and even a Thanksgiving dinner (at which ugly sweaters that FOX had made with players’ faces on them were handed out to lots of laughs).
Berhalter also scored with his team by making a change that had never been done before: post-game family time. Berhalter thought it was important for players to share the post-game excitement with those who supported them the most, so after each game the bus to the hotel was delayed – sometimes for over an hour – and everyone climbed into the empty stands to be with their loved ones.
In a typical match, the team leaves the stadium and returns to the hotel as quickly as possible; in this tournament, it sometimes took almost two hours after the match to return, and the players appreciated being able to share these moments with their families.
All this teamwork, along with the results it has achieved, is a strong argument for Berhalter. But support for Berhalter’s return for a second cycle is not universal within the federation.
Some believe that short of an insane level of overshoot, a manager shouldn’t get a second cycle. Bringing a manager back for a return commitment hasn’t worked well in the past either. Neither Bob Bradley nor Jurgen Klinsmann lasted the full World Cup cycle when they were brought back for another round, and although Bruce Arena lasted a second cycle in 2006, that tournament ended in the disappointment of a group stage exit. Then there was Arena’s second term, replacing Klinsmann in the bid to qualify for 2018, and obviously that went badly too.
There are also questions about Berhalter’s decision-making in terms of in-game adjustments and line-up decisions. More than once, the USA failed to rely on a dominant opening period to score the game in the second half, and there are also good questions about the use / rotation of its players.
Deciding the future of Berhalter
Shortly after speaking to the players that night after the loss to the Netherlands, Berhalter left the room where he was watching the Argentina-Australia game and reflected on his own experience in Qatar.
For months before the tournament, he told ESPN, he and his coaches had painstakingly considered every tactical scenario they could think up for every group stage match – a goal against Wales, a man against Iran, etc. on. The process had been exhausting, and Berhalter said he was looking forward to “chilling out” with his family.
When asked to evaluate his work, however, he hesitated “I don’t think it’s time for me to evaluate my own performance,” he said. “What I would say is a measuring stick is: can the Americans look at what they’ve seen and be proud of it? Can they be proud of the team? “Yes. So I’m proud of this group. I’m proud of how they’ve stayed together and what they’ve shown to the outside world.”
This is certainly one factor to consider, but there are obviously others. Sources told ESPN that the decision whether or not to keep Berhalter involves at least five people: USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone, USSF athletic director Earnie Stewart, general manager of the U.S. men’s national team Brian McBride, USSF Board Member Juan Uro and USSF CEO. JT Batson.
Stewart, a staunch defender of Berhalter this cycle, will have the most say, although any hires must ultimately be approved by the board.
“As we always do after a major tournament, we take time to reflect,” Stewart said in a statement. “We will conduct a full review with everyone involved as we determine our next steps. We look forward to building on Qatar’s performance and preparing for the journey to 2026.”
There isn’t necessarily a rush to make a decision either, although there are short-term considerations as a January training camp is planned which will likely involve mostly US-based players. United and will end with games against Serbia and Colombia. While it wouldn’t be disastrous to have an interim head coach, the federation would likely prefer a solution sooner rather than later.
If Berhalter does not return either by his choice or that of the federation, the other candidates will not be lacking. The list likely starts with two managers who were considered the last time there was an opening: Orlando City SC coach Oscar Pareja and former Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio. Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch is also an obvious target, although it would take time to get Marsch away from the Premier League club.
Herc Gomez reckons Louis van Gaal tactically outplayed Gregg Berhalter in the USA’s World Cup exit from Qatar in the Round of 16.
As appealing as these names may be, it’s also clear that Berhalter has built a solid base of support. He is seen as having a ‘great mentality’ to unite players across MLS and Europe, a source said, which is ‘a complex thing to deal with’ given it can be a source of friction in the league. team if not managed well. Players also clearly respect him.
“He did a good job. I think the hardest thing as a coach is to get everyone going in the same direction,” U.S. defender DeAndre Yedlin told Fox Sports. “I think he did it very well. He brought everyone into the culture, and that’s the most important thing. You hear a lot about the vibe with this team, and people like to joke about it. But at the end of the day, I think that might be the biggest quality of the team.”
At a World Cup, where expectations far exceed the sample size on which a coach is judged, Yedlin might be right.
At some point early in the tournament, Berhalter was asked about this reality – the notion that being an international manager means having relatively few games to prove your worth. He considered the question and nodded.
“That’s what you signed up for,” he said. “It’s the job, and the way I see it is like an opportunity.”
Time will tell if there will be another.