Antonio Calanni/AP

As Bob Bradley takes charge at Swansea City, we wonder: Where does he rank all-time among U.S. men's coaches?

October 13, 2016

Alexander Abnos: Tied with Bruce Arena

The list of “greatest American coaches” for men’s soccer in the United States is a fairly short one, and the rapid growth of the game here means that the list is more or less limited to names the modern era: Bob Gansler, Bruce Arena, Sigi Schmid, and Bradley.

Where Bradley ranks within that group is highly subjective, depending on what you value in a coach (Pure numbers? Building a foundation? Titles? World Cup performances?). For me, he’s tied with Bruce Arena. If he performs up to expectations at Swansea, yeah, he’ll be the best ever. 

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It certainly would be hard to make a case that he’s not in the top two. Arena’s accomplishments speak for themselves. But Arena and Bradley have had very different careers since joining forces at D.C. United in 1996, so it’s difficult to judge them via the same criteria. Perhaps if Bradley had stayed in MLS or given a crack at a second World Cup, he’d have similar accolades.

So at the risk of oversimplifying things, let’s go with this: Arena is the best manager in American soccer history. No one has built programs, massaged rosters, lineups and locker rooms and maintained a championship standard like he has. He’s the ultimate team architect. Bradley is the best coach in American soccer history. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of the sport, improving players on a granular level, game-planning and working within a system to get results, no one has more impressive credentials.

Grant Wahl: Right behind Arena

In terms of the national team, Bradley is right behind Arena and ahead (for now) of Jurgen Klinsmann (who’s not American, of course, but bear with me: We’re ranking USMNT coaches here). Arena got the U.S. to the World Cup quarterfinals, so enough said. Bradley’s U.S. team won a World Cup 2010 group, which puts him slightly ahead of Klinsmann for now, and Bradley also got the U.S. to the final of the 2009 Confederations Cup by beating Spain. Bradley also won a Gold Cup in which every country brought its best team (in 2007), which is something that Klinsmann can’t say.

In terms of ranking American club coaches of men’s teams, it’s hard to argue with Arena, who has won five MLS Cup titles. Only two other American coaches have won more than one MLS Cup—Schmid (2) and Dom Kinnear (2)—and Bradley has won just one. Bradley’s degree-of-difficulty club work in Europe, especially at Stabaek, is remarkable. If Bradley can achieve things at Swansea he’ll move to No. 1 in this area, but for now I’d say:

1. Arena

2. Bradley

3. Schmid

4. Kinnear

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