The USWNT coaching search has reportedly reached a very predictable final stage

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 29: USA interim head coach Twila Kilgore speaks with Emily Fox #23 during the second half of an international friendly match against Colombia at Snapdragon Stadium on October 29, 2023 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Nearly three months after its unofficial launch, the search for a coach for the U.S. women’s national team appears to be heading toward a predictable end.

According to reports on Friday, there are at least three finalists for the job: Australian Tony Gustavsson, OL Reign player Laura Harvey and Juventus player Joe Montemurro ESPN And The athlete. There could be more and there could still be twists, but there were interviews. An election is expected in the coming weeks.

And if it ends up being Gustavsson, Harvey or Montemurro, that won’t help allay skepticism about U.S. Soccer’s process.

It dragged on and on because it was data-driven and rigorous, according to U.S. Soccer athletic director Matt Crocker. It supposedly it started with hundreds of names. Using an “evidence-based” approach, the pool was narrowed down to double digits and then shortlisted. All of this, Crocker told reporters last month, is a means to an end: “finding ourselves the best candidate in the world.”

But reality contradicts this flowery narrative. The top candidate Sarina Wiegman is not available. And the next name that was on everyone’s lips two and a half months ago, Gustavsson, may or may not be interested.

It didn’t take months to identify Gustavsson, a current World Cup semifinalist with previous USWNT experience. The average Joe could have done that the moment Vlatko Andonovski resigned. Gustavsson was the second-biggest coach in women’s international football when he led the Australian Matildas deep into the 2023 World Cup largely without Sam Kerr, their best player. He previously coached the US women as an assistant under Pia Sundhage and Jill Ellis. He is a respected tactician. So of course he would be strongly considered.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 26: Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson gives instructions during the AFC Women's Asian Olympic Qualifier match between Australia Matildas and IR Iran at HBF Park on October 26, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Australian Tony Gustavsson is reportedly a finalist for the USWNT head coaching job. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

But would he give up Australia – the team and country that fell in love with him this summer?

His contract runs until the 2024 Olympics; Would US Soccer potentially pay enough to get him out of this contract?

And would he move to Chicago? Or would US Soccer allow him to live abroad if he agreed to take the job?

These are some of the questions that are currently believed to be and reportedly at the heart of the trial. Gustavsson reiterated last week that he “loves” coaching Australia and that it is his “complete focus”. “I’m proud that people are being interviewed for a job like this [the USWNT job]“It’s one of the biggest jobs in the world in terms of finance, interest and all that,” he said. “But [Australia]For me it’s also the greatest job in the world.”

However, Gustavsson continued: “I was clear too [after the World Cup]and I want to make it clear now that I want to see investments [in women’s soccer from Australia’s federation and stakeholders]. In order for me to be motivated to stay, we can’t be complacent.”

US Soccer invests more in its team than Australia and could almost certainly pay Gustavsson more than Australia pays him. But US Soccer would also prefer him to move stateside – something Gustavsson probably doesn’t want to do, according to The Athletic and ESPN.

“This is essentially a Chicago position, someone who works in and around the 3-6-5 office environment,” Crocker said when describing the USWNT vacancy in September. Like his predecessor as athletic director, Earnie Stewart, Crocker wants a coach who will work with US Soccer’s other coaches and staff at the federation’s headquarters, “someone who not only wants to improve the performance of the senior national team, but [but] Views [their] “It is very important to support the entire style of play and support the youth national coaches,” he told TNT.

That preference appeared to be one of the reasons Crocker chose to rehire Gregg Berhalter rather than seek a more high-profile men’s coach.

Crocker’s willingness to move on from that could now determine his USWNT search – as Gustavsson is clearly the most qualified candidate.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – OCTOBER 20: Sydney Leroux #2 of Angel City FC and head coach Laura Harvey of OL Reign walk onto the field together before the game at Lumen Field on October 20, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Angel City FC’s Sydney Leroux and OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey walk onto the field together before the game at Lumen Field on October 20, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The other two reported finalists resurfaced in the USWNT’s last coaching search in 2019. Harvey finished second behind Andonovski. Montemurro was pursued by US Soccer, a source confirmed to Yahoo Sports; But Arsenal, his club at the time, did not allow him to be interviewed.

Four years later, neither would be an inspiring choice. Harvey, who first came to the United States from England in 2013, has consistently outperformed in the National Women’s Soccer League but has very limited international experience – in the 2020-21 season with U.S. Soccer U20 players and as Assistant to Andonovski with the senior team.

Montemurro, whose career began in his native Australia (first as a men’s coach, then a women’s coach), rose to prominence in 2019 by leading Arsenal to the English Women’s Super League title. After two more seasons (without trophies) in London, he left the club and ended up with Juventus in the undermanned Italian Serie A. He has never managed a national team either.

Either one could prove to be the perfect USWNT head coach. But their presence among the finalists suggests a lack of interesting candidates that threatened to complicate this search from the start. The American soccer ecosystem has largely failed to develop quality professional coaches. When the U.S. lost to Sweden on Aug. 4 and Andonovski nearly lost his job, there was no obvious replacement. The only thing that has changed between then and now – and in some ways apparently the only thing that has changed between 2019 and now – is that Gustavsson won two World Cup knockout games (one of them on penalties).

Since then, Crocker has led what appears to be a painstaking search. He talked about choosing from “an incredibly diverse pool of exciting candidates.”

But if this is a shortlist, finding top candidates was the easy part. The hard part seems to be convincing them that the USWNT is still a top job — and/or deciding whether to accommodate the best of them by changing the job description.

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