The U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team may still be celebrating its World Cup victory, but it is already looking toward the next chapter. Head coach Jill Ellis announced that she was stepping down following her successful run with the team. With the Olympic qualifiers coming up, the team will have to fill Ellis’s shoes extremely quickly.
The honeymoon is over, and the team cannot waste time. Ellis leaves a legacy of winning, and as the team moves forward, these five candidates may be the best to fill her shoes.
Jill Ellis’ legacy
Ellis has certainly left her mark on the U.S. Women’s Soccer program. Her two World Cups make her the most successful coach in the history of the team. Although she will continue coaching the team through the end of its Victory Tour through the United States, the team will be looking not only to replace her abilities to draw up strategies and coach but a natural leader who connected with her players.
Starting as an assistant with NC State in 1988, Ellis climbed the ranks, eventually becoming the 11-year head coach of the UCLA Bruins. Although she never won a title with UCLA, that was where she made a name for herself, and she eventually came on as an assistant with the USWNT before becoming head coach in 2014. With two world cups in five years, the rest speaks for itself. The next coach will have big shoes to fill, but who are some of the top candidates?
Could U.S. Women’s Soccer Team be looking to fill the spot in the same place that they found Ellis? If so, Amanda Cromwell could be an interesting choice for the job. Like Ellis before her, Cromwell coaches the UCLA women’s soccer team, and unlike Ellis, Cromwell has won the national title that eluded Ellis. Her experience does not end with college, however. She has plenty of playing experience, and she tends to get the best out of her recruits at UCLA.
Also from the college ranks, Erica Dambach has experience all over the place. She’s coached in the Olympics and the World Cup on top of her college coaching. Her program has consistently produced some of the best players in soccer, and her experience across the board shows that she is willing to take on different challenges. She also has championship experience, coaching Penn State to the 2015 national championship.
One safe hire would be Tony Gustavsson. As the top assistant for U.S. Women’s Soccer, he knows the system, the players, and the culture surrounding the team. Although he is of Swedish descent, he has worked with the American team for the last two World Cup runs. He has also shown to be a master recruiter in Sweden, which could come in handy if he is tasked with doing this in the States. Ellis trusted him to help her fine-tune the offense of the USWNT during both World Cups, and that could be enough of a vote of confidence to make him a frontrunner.
Keidane McAlpine has made headlines after turning around the USC Trojans women’s soccer program. Because of that, he could be an interesting choice. Managing a successful turnaround will be a necessary component of whoever takes over for Jill Ellis, and McAlpine’s resume speaks for itself. He has several accolades, including a .762 winning percentage and a 2013 Pac-12 Coach of the Year award.
If the USWNT is looking overseas, one interesting candidate could be French coach Corinne Diacre. Although she may not have the experience or the knowledge of the United States talent pool, Diacre has shown to be successful in many jobs, including a former gig coaching a men’s soccer team. She is known for her big personality, and thanks to France’s early loss in the World Cup qualifier, her French team will not qualify for the Olympics, which means she could be available for interviews.