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  • With the Columbus Crew ousted from the MLS playoffs, U.S. Soccer has no other excuses for waiting to hire Gregg Berhalter, if he is indeed the choice to become the next men's national team manager.
By Avi Creditor
November 12, 2018

U.S. Soccer is in no rush. That much has been apparent for 13 months.

After the men's national team's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, coach Bruce Arena took three days to step down from his role, as if any other alternative were a legitimate possibility. Former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati took nearly two months to annouce he wouldn't be running for re-election. A full six months after that election, the first men's national team general manager, Earnie Stewart, began his role at Soccer House in Chicago. And over a year after he became interim manager to provide a bridge between the failed past and, ideally, a more fruitful future, Dave Sarachan remains in charge.

So, no, U.S. Soccer isn't moving quickly with its plan to turn the page on the ultimate failure. Playing devil's advocate, it's the organization's prerogative to act that way. The luxury of having a year-long head start on a four-year cycle affords the time to not rush into important decisions. Skeptics would say it's a waste of that year to not make more immediate decisions to kick-start the future, that not really having a vigorous interview process with a wide swath of candidates defeats the purpose altogether and that those in charge weren't accountable enough for the actions of the players they oversaw or proactive enough to find an impactful remedy.

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The reason for the wait, at least on the men's national team sideline, appears to be Gregg Berhalter. The former U.S. defender and current Columbus Crew manager has long been touted as the front-runner for the job, and when looking at who has confirmed that they haven't been approached by U.S. Soccer and the set of prerequisites for the job that Stewart proclaimed in September, the process of elimination doesn't leave a whole lot of other pieces standing on the Guess Who board.

Whether Berhalter is the right man for the job is another story altogether, but after his Crew were ousted from the MLS playoffs Sunday night, the clock has started on U.S. Soccer to get its guy, and no excuses remain for waiting longer to hire him.

SI's Grant Wahl reported last week that U.S. Soccer is in the "final stages" of its hiring process and hopes to make an announcement by the end of 2018. With the men's team currently congregating overseas for friendlies against England and Italy, it'd be unlikely to disrupt the proceedings with an unveiling of that magnitude–and Stewart is overseas with the team right now, according to the Washington Post. With Thanksgiving following almost immediately after the Italy game, it's unlikely that a coaching hire would be buried during the holiday. Berhalter himself didn't seem to be in too much of a rush to address his future, deflecting questions after Columbus's 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls and saying it wasn't the right time to discuss his prospects.

There are also the logistics that come with hiring the coach. Whoever is Stewart's chosen one must be approved by the U.S. Soccer board and then have his contract details sorted, while the proper rollout to have the manager introduced is put in motion. That won't happen with the flip of a switch the day after a coach becomes unencumbered by his more pressing duties.

U.S. Soccer has shown little desire to rush this hiring through, much to the chagrin of a supporter base dying for a new solution. It appears that it'll take even more time to finalize the move. But with Berhalter no longer focused on the 2018 MLS season and with other options–the LA Galaxy, Berhalter's former club, are said to be interested in hiring him as well–presumably on the table, the sand is rapidly dropping through the hourglass to end the year-plus of purgatory and make a decision.

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