Could USA get Guardiola or Klopp as manager before 2026 World Cup? (2024)

Could USA get Guardiola or Klopp as manager before 2026 World Cup? (1)Image source, Getty Images

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It is almost eight years since Jurgen Klinsmann was fired as USA national coach.

The axe fell on the German superstar coach after a wretched start to qualification for the 2018 World Cup and brought to an end a five-year tenure most notable for getting out of a group containing heavyweights Germany, Portugal and Ghana to reach the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup.

Now, after a desperate Copa America campaign when they became the first host nation to be eliminated from the group phase, US Soccer must decide whether to stick with lesser-known current coach Gregg Berhalter or make a change.

And if it is a change, then who next?

Pep Guardiola has cast doubt over his future beyond next season at Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp has already left Liverpool.

Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino are free agents after missing out on the Manchester United job and Klinsmann’s fellow German Joachim Low has not coached since quitting the national team job in 2021.

Would any of those stellar names fit the bill? Or will US Soccer look further down the food chain at a less expensive option?

Either way, the stakes are high. It is a decision they must get right.

In 2018, the US Soccer Federation predicted hosting the World Cup in 2026 would generate $5bn (£3.94bn), external in short-term funding.

The impact on those watching on TV is incalculable.

“If you are a kid watching at home, you want a hero,” Michael Lahoud, a former Major League Soccer player who now works in the United States for CBS and ESPN, told BBC Sport. “The furthest we have ever been in the World Cup was 2002. I watched that tournament and saw black players who were my role models. I said I wanted to be the next Eddie Pope and DaMarcus Beasley.

“Yes, [hosting] the World Cup is amazing but we have to have success to make an impact.”

It is against this backdrop that US Soccer finds itself staring into the abyss.

Hosting an expanded Copa America this summer was supposed to be a dry run for what is to follow in two years’ time.

For the United States, their interest is over, eliminated from what appeared to be a straightforward group, thanks largely to their defeat by Panama in Atlanta on 26 June.

Follow the women's Emma Hayes route?

US Soccer were quick to confirm a ‘comprehensive review’ of their Copa performance would take place in the aftermath of their exit.

“We must do better,” the organisation said in a statement.

The review will be led by technical director Matt Crocker, a Welshman whose background is at the Football Association and Southampton. He was appointed in April 2023 and his biggest decision on the men’s side of the organisation so far was confirming Berhalter would return to the coaching role he relinquished following the 2022 World Cup pending an investigation into his conduct and a row with the family of Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna, who was part of the Copa America squad.

No timescale has been put on the review and the United States do not play again until friendlies against Canada and New Zealand in September.

“If Gregg Berhalter wants to fulfil this mission of changing the way the world thinks about us, and how we think about ourselves as a soccer playing nation he has to prove it to us,” said former USA defender and now TV analyst Alexi Lalas in his pre-tournament post. “There are people rooting for him but there are people who think there is someone else who could do better with this group of players.”

And that is the crux of the matter.

When USA crashed out early from the Women’s World Cup last year and coach Vlatko Andonovski stepped down, Crocker was bold in naming all-conquering Chelsea coach Emma Hayes as his replacement.

It is estimated Hayes is earning $1.6m (£1.26m) a year, the same as Berhalter, although his salary in 2022 was boosted by a $900,000 (£709,780) World Cup qualification bonus. That is a significant sum – but compared to big-name European-based bosses it is miniscule.

So the dilemma Crocker must wrestle with as he conducts his review is if it is not to be Berhalter, who gets his job?

Guardiola, Klopp - 'a big name has been missing'

Former Leeds boss Jesse Marsch, who worked for the Red Bull group in New York, Salzburg and Leipzig, would have been a strong contender were it not for the fact he was named Canada coach in May on a contract that runs to the 2026 World Cup Canada will co-host with the USA and Mexico.

Canada have reached the Copa America quarter-finals, where they will play Venezuela, having progressed from a group that included three South American sides in Argentina, Chile and Peru.

LAFC are currently top of the Western Conference in Major League Soccer, having reached the previous two finals. They are coached by Steve Cherundolo, a former USA World Cup player who said in 2020 he would ‘love’ to coach the national team.

But there are some who feel Crocker should look much further afield.

“A big name is what has been missing,” says Lahoud. “Our exposure to the game comes from the Premier League and the rest of Europe. Why not make a big splash and go for it?

“These players need to be pushed and have someone they respect, someone who can take them to the next level. US Soccer has the funds to go after a person like that.”

Guardiola is top of the wishlist for most managerial vacancies, and a 'glamour' job in the USA looks attractive on paper.

Whilst it seems unlikely Guardiola would quit Manchester City before his contract ends in 2025, he has already said he is unlikely to stay on beyond that.

Klopp is taking a break from the game after leaving Liverpool while Pochettino and Tuchel are both without a club, so all three can be deemed available right now, but they would all demand an annual salary significantly more than $3m (£2.37m).

With the biggest two international tournaments outside the World Cup currently taking place, it would be usual for more big names to become available as they leave their present positions.

Lahoud is clear about how he would approach the situation if he was in Crocker’s shoes.

“It is pulling at the heart strings with any of those big names,” he said. “The most respected managers are looking towards legacy.

“Where have they not been? It is an interesting project. USA is one of the last frontiers when it comes to developing the game. Can you make a statement? That would be my play.”

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