The United States Soccer Federation is still working on finding a permanent replacement for departed women's manager Pia Sundhage, but in the meantime, they have hired Jill Ellis as the team's interim coach. Ellis will lead the team into their friendlies against Germany on October 20 and 23.
Ellis was an ultra-successful college coach, helping turn UCLA into one of the nation's elite programs. She led the Bruins to the College Cup in eight of 12 years before becoming an assistant for Sundhage. She also managed two U-20 national teams and currently serves as the women's program's Development Director.
But Ellis is not up for the job on a permanent basis. She said a month ago that she would stay in her current position, as would former U.S. manager April Heinrichs, who will continue to serve as technical director.
Instead, it will go to one of the 25-30 people who have inquired about the job, some of whom were interviewed by the USSF on Wednesday. USSF president Sunil Gulati said that the goal is to have a new manager in place by the end of October or beginning of November, although that is not a hard deadline by any means.
The U.S. doesn't have any major competitions coming up and Ellis can guide them just fine through the friendlies, giving Gulati and the USSF time to find the right candidate. That right candidate, at least ideally, would be American, according to Gulati.
If we've got the opportunity to hire an American coach, we're going to do that if we think that's the best choice for the program. An international coach may bring a different perspective and be able to add things that an American coach doesn't have. But especially on the women's side, where we have a long history of success being at the top, if we can hire an American coach then that would be a great thing.
Gulati made clear that they would not reach for an American coach if he was not the best candidate for the job, but an American appears to be the way he is leaning. The situation is starting to become a little clearer now, even if it is still very much in the air.
Sundhage obviously leaves big shoes to fill. She led the U.S. to three major tournament finals and won two Olympic gold medals, setting a very high bar for her successor.
Among the rumored candidates is former U.S. manager Tony DiCicco. Penn St. head coach Erica Walsh is also a hot name after serving on Sundhage's staff and Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum has steam. Three former WPS managers, Paul Riley, Aaran Lines and Jim Gabarra are also reportedly in the mix.
Gulati did drop one more hint about his thinking in searching for a new manager, saying that he would like him to have some involvement in the youth teams. Exactly what he means by that is unclear and he did not say that is was a deal breaker, but it is a consideration and that could lead him to Steve Swanson, the Virginia coach who won the U-20 World Cup last month.
In the meantime, Ellis will lead the team. If the U.S. turns to a college coach then Ellis may also coach the team in their December friendlies against Ireland as well, but at least by January, the team will have a new, permanent manager.