As the U.S. women's national team continues building toward defending its 2015 Women's World Cup title, one major question has lingered for quite some time: When will its general manager be hired?
Ever since a restructuring of sorts at U.S. Soccer last December, it had been made clear that GMs would be hired on the men's and women's sides. Earnie Stewart began in his role as the men's GM last month, looking to help refocus a ship that lost its way after a failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The women's GM, U.S. Soccer has revealed, will enter the fold in the winter, months before the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
Up to 10 candidates will be identified and interviewed in October and November, with in-person interviews with "approximately six" taking place in December and January, the federation said in a statement on Wednesday. Another round of interviews will whittle down the field to two or three, before a top choice is recommended to the board of directors, and a winter target is set on making the hire. U.S. Soccer says it has been compiling a list of both domestic and foreign candidates over "the last few months" in anticipation of the hiring process. The general manager will come on in an observatory role at first before taking a more hands-on approach following the World Cup–provided the U.S. women qualify. Their group for next month's qualification tournament was set on Tuesday.
“As this position is focused on the long-term future of the women’s national team, the GM will of course respect and support the existing World Cup plan that Jill Ellis has made for the team,” U.S. Soccer's Chief Soccer Officer Ryan Mooney said. “Should things go well at qualifying–and we certainly expect them to–the time between the start date for the new GM and the World Cup next summer will be an important period for this person to experience the dynamics of the team and program firsthand. Following this observation period, the GM will be prepared and equipped to manage the program moving forward.
“We want a person who understands the history of our program and what has made the U.S. women so successful, so we can continue to focus on and maximize those strengths. But we also need someone who understands the environment that has led to the exponential technical growth worldwide of the women’s game over the last 10 years and how we can use the resources and the advantages we have in our country to continue to be the world-wide leader in women’s soccer.”
The responsibilities under the umbrella of the USWNT GM are aligned with those of Stewart on the men's side: mainly talent and tactical identification and player development. Should the U.S. replace Ellis as manager, that would be a prime responsibility of the GM as well.
The U.S. women begin World Cup qualifying in Cary, North Carolina, on Oct. 4, facing Mexico prior to group matches against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago. They're fresh off a pair of friendly wins over World Cup-bound Chile and are unbeaten in their last 21 matches (18-0-3).