David Wagner, the German-American soccer coach who led Huddersfield Town to promotion to the Premier League this year, has been named a top 50 manager by FourFourTwo.com. He isn’t exactly high on the list (okay, he’s last), but seeing an American coach get some recognition is welcome news. Wagner began his career coaching the Borussia Dortmund U-23 side and took the Huddersfield job in 2015. His first mission was to keep them in the second tier in England, but in two short seasons Wagner has managed to bring the team to the top flight.
It is great to see Wagner get this recognition, but he didn’t hone his craft in parity-driven Major League Soccer or lead a stateside youth team. As much as Americans would like to claim one of our own in the Premier League once again, FourFourTwo rightly lists him as German since it is the country of his birth and where he trained as a manager. That said, American soccer coaches seldom get the recognition that they deserve.
Whether it is because of the status of Major League Soccer as a relatively new league in the world or the fact that the United States Men’s National Team didn’t begin qualifying for the World Cup in the modern era until 1990, their accomplishments are seldom noticed.
This doesn’t just go for the men though. There are just two women’s team coaches on this list, and neither are Americans. Representing Chelsea Ladies, Emma Hayes is the lone woman the magazine choose to include of the 50 best coaches in the world while England Women’s National Team coach Mark Sampson also makes the list. Jill Ellis, who is English but has lived in the U.S. her entire life and developed her coaching talent here, is not on the list. Sure, the USWNT has struggled lately and is trying to narrow down the player pool leading into the buildup to the 2019 World Cup, but Joachim Low is ranked 12th on this list and that’s with Germany failing to make the final of Euro 2016.
For a list of the World’s Best Coaches, FourFourTwo has managers representing just three of the six world soccer federations. There are no representatives from CAF, OFC, or CONCACAF. Miguel Hererra, who led Mexico to qualify for the World Cup when all looked lost, was fired from the job after winning the Gold Cup in 2015, and then won the LigaMX Clausura this year, isn’t on this list. What’s going on?
In case FourFourTwo needs some ideas, here are some other coaches that deserve a more credit than they’re given:
Jill Ellis deserves to be on this list. She turned the USWNT from a team that was struggling in the group stage of the 2015 World Cup to a team that dominated both Germany and Japan on the way to winning the tournament.
Another name to consider is Bruce Arena. The USMNT manager led a team that was generally regarded as an underdog to get out of the group stage to the brink of a World Cup semi-final in 2002, has won the MLS Supporters Shield three times along with an U.S. Open Cup victory and five MLS cups with D.C. United and the LA Galaxy. In his four games back at the helm of the USMNT, he has turned a team that dropped 6 points in the first two Hex qualifying matches into a side that earned 8 of a possible 12 points from the next 4 World Cup qualifiers.
Peter Vermes has not only taken Sporting Kansas City from a troubled team to constant playoff and Supporter’s Shield contender. His success at SKC also has helped make soccer as popular as it is in the city with a stadium that boasts one of the best home atmospheres found anywhere. As manager he has won the MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cups.
Greg Vanney and Jason Kreis also have good cases to be on a list like this. Vanney has taken over a historically underachieving Toronto FC club and made it a perennial contender. Meanwhile Kries led Real Salt Lake to the playoffs every year from 2008-2013, won MLS Cup in 2009, and nearly won the CONCACAF Champions League despite the disadvantages that MLS clubs have in regards to matches in the competition being held while the league is in preseason.
So, while David Wagner deserves to be on this list, hopefully we will start to see more American coaches get the credit they deserve as well.