In a move that was surprising in its timing, U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann signed a four-year extension through 2018 with U.S. soccer on Thursday, adding the title of technical director to his job description. The extension will give Klinsmann the power to have a giant influence over the direction of the U.S. men's program, which he took over in 2011.
Klinsmann publicly expressed his interest in extending his U.S. contract for the first time in an interview with SI.com in October, but Thursday's announcement was the first evidence that U.S. Soccer was willing to give Klinsmann four more years.
Why would U.S. Soccer extend Klinsmann now instead of waiting to see how the U.S. does at next year's World Cup? The timing may well have something to do with the difficult draw the U.S. got last week for the World Cup (Ghana, Portugal, Germany). If the U.S. had drawn an easier group, then it might have made sense to wait until after the World Cup to see if Klinsmann's team had grossly underperformed.
With the tough draw, however, the U.S. is hardly a cinch to advance, and extending Klinsmann ahead of time shows that U.S. Soccer is happy with the direction the national team has been taking under Klinsmann. It's a big vote of confidence for a coach who took the job in 2011 promising major changes to the U.S. system that anyone with knowledge of the game knew would take longer than 2014 to see through fully.
Klinsmann has been making a base salary of $2.5 million a year, so it stands to reason that he would get a raise to at least $3 million a year on the new contract, not least because he has added the technical director position to his job description.
Is there a sizable risk involved here for U.S. Soccer? Of course. The U.S. could play well at the World Cup and still not advance, but if the Americans are blown out of the water by their group stage foes there will be many who question this move. There's also a school of thought that it's unwise for any national team to keep a coach for more than one four-year cycle. In hindsight, the second terms of previous U.S. coaches like Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley were not as productive as their successful first terms. Then again, extending his contract will allow Klinsmann to be bold in Brazil next summer, and sometimes boldness can be a great thing on the biggest stage. Whatever way you look at it, though, the Klinsmann Era of U.S. Soccer is clearly upon us.