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Evaluating potential USWNT coaching candidates

There’s one candidate who’s the clear favorite, but we examine some others that could be the next to head the USWNT.

Portland Thorns v OL Reign Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

In the aftermath of the end of the United States Women’s National Team’s run at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, there has been a lot of discussion about what is next for the program. For the first time ever, the USWNT failed to make it to the semifinals or further at a Women’s World Cup, and it’s the worst finish for a USWNT at any major competition.

Because of the abrupt exit from the World Cup, many are speculating that USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s time with the program will end. His contract is up at the end of the year, and with the U.S. Soccer Federation currently doing its evaluation of the program, it’s expected that evaluation will end with the federation moving on from Andonovski.

So, if the USWNT will be looking for a new coach, what candidates are out there for sporting director Matt Crocker? We take a look at some potential options for U.S. Soccer, in alphabetical order, as they decide who could be the coach for the next cycle.

Lorne Donaldson, Jamaica head coach

Donaldson is currently the head coach of Jamaica, who he led to becoming the first Caribbean team to make the knockout stage of a Women’s World Cup. He’s also familiar with the youth soccer club setup in America. He directly trained Mal Swanson and Sophia Smith in their youth with Real Colorado and clearly has a good relationship with 2 of the current USWNT strikers. His ability to develop young talent is crucial for the program. At 63 years old, he’s the oldest candidate on this list, but he could be an underrated pick should he decide to leave his current post with the Reggae Girlz.

Tony Gustavsson, Australia head coach

Tony Gustavsson, 49, is currently leading Australia to its best performance at a Women’s World Cup, with the Matildas in the semifinals as the co-hosts. Gustavsson was a former USWNT assistant under Jill Ellis from 2014 to 2019, as the USWNT won 2 Women’s World Cup titles. He’s familiar with many of these players, and he is a good motivator as evidenced by Australia’s current run. Depending on how Australia finishes out the tournament, he may not want to leave, but he would be viewed as one of the top candidates should he be interested.

Laura Harvey, OL Reign head coach

Laura Harvey, 43, is widely presumed to be the top candidate should the USWNT job open up. She was a finalist for the job in 2019 when the federation decided to hire Andonovski, and Harvey’s been right there in the wings waiting for an opportunity. She’s coached the USWNT U-20s, served as a USWNT assistant, and has also coached the former Utah Royals, Arsenal, and Birmingham City before she landed at OL Reign. She knows many of the players and she’s capable of developing young talent, and she seems to check all of the boxes.

Emma Hayes, Chelsea head coach

Hayes might be arguably the best coach in the women’s game right now. The 46-year-old currently coaches Chelsea and has won 6 WSL titles, 5 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 1 Community Shield, and made it to the 2023 Champions League final. She also won The Best FIFA Coach award in 2021. On top of that, Emma Hayes has some knowledge of the NWSL, as she is a former Chicago Red Stars head coach. The question will be whether she wishes to leave Chelsea for a national team, but if she did, she would be widely coveted by several national teams around the world.

Silvia Neid, former Germany head coach

Silvia Neid is one of those coaches on the sidelines that has an incredible resume. She coached Germany from 2005-2016, winning the 2007 World Cup, the 2009 and 2013 Euros, in addition to claiming Olympic gold in 2016 and bronze in 2008. Neid has not coached since she left the Germany post, and at 59 years old, the question could be whether the current game has passed her by.

Mark Parsons, Washington Spirit head coach

Mark Parsons might be the most polarizing candidate. Currently in his second stint with the Washington Spirit, Parsons won the 2017 NWSL title, 2021 Challenge Cup, the 2016 and 2021 NWSL Shields, and the 2020 NWSL Community Shield as coach of the Portland Thorns. He then left that job to take over as the head coach of the Netherlands, but departed a year later after the Netherlands failed to defend their Euro title in 2022, crashing out in the quarterfinals. At 36 years of age, he’s the youngest potential candidate on this list, but would he leave the Spirit again to step up and try to prove himself again on the international stage?

Bev Priestman, Canada head coach

Priestman, 37, has had an up-and-down couple of years. She’s currently the Canada head coach, and under her leadership, they won the gold medal at the 2020 Olympics, including beating the USWNT in the semifinals. However, Canada failed to get out of the group at the Women’s World Cup, leaving her status in limbo. She’s liked by players, and she has a ton of career left. Will she be able to develop young talent to form a new core of the program?

Casey Stoney, San Diego Wave coach

Casey Stoney, 41, is the former Chelsea and Manchester United coach that currently coaches the San Diego Wave. She won the 2017-18 WSL with Manchester United, and was a coveted coach when the Wave brought her in for their inaugural season last year. She’s never coached on the international level, so would U.S. Soccer look to her to help retool the USWNT program?

Sarina Wiegman, England head coach

Sarina Wiegman, 53, is the highest paid women’s soccer head coach in the world, and based on what she’s done with England, U.S. Soccer might have to open up the pocketbooks a bit more to land her. She helped England to the Euro 2022 title, and she’s the only woman coach to lead her team to the semifinals of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. She’s also coached the Netherlands in the past, leading them to the 2019 Women’s World Cup final, where they of course lost to the United States. If she doesn’t close it out with England, maybe she will want to move on to the USWNT and help retool that team.

Which candidate do you think is the best option for the USWNT? Hit the comments and discuss.