There are two different answers. According to U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati – who will not be resigning – the federation will name an interim manager in the next 7-10 days. That coach will lead the U.S. into one or two November friendlies, and perhaps through January camp as well. The favorite for that role would appear to be Tab Ramos.
But, “we’ve got two different processes,” Gulati said Friday. The second one will be “a longer review of the program, and decisions about long-term planning for the coach. We don’t need a long-term, four-year commitment to a coach by February or March.”
That second process is the more important one. And the search for Arena’s long-term successor will be crucial to the future of the national team. Here are several candidates to lead the U.S. into the next World Cup cycle.
Tab Ramos — U.S. under-20s
There’s a chance Ramos could be both the short-term and long-term solution. The former U.S. national team midfielder has performed reasonably well in his role as youth technical director and U-20 boss. According to Gulati, he has performed many duties of a full technical director as well. And if he gets the interim position – and if he wants the interim position – he could end up being the default candidate. A similar situation occurred with Bob Bradley in 2006 while the federation chased Jurgen Klinsmann.
But is Ramos really qualified to win the job long-term? The U.S. has never hired a men’s national team manager from within since Steve Sampson in 1995. It obviously has the money to chase bigger names and high-profile candidates. Ramos would be a relatively uninspiring choice.
Peter Vermes — Sporting Kansas City
One of the more steady and consistently successful MLS managers, Vermes has been in charge at Sporting KC for eight years, and has all but clinched a seventh-straight playoff berth in 2017. He’s won an MLS Cup and three U.S. Open Cups. He has a decent player development track record, and is a former U.S. national teamer himself. He probably tops the list of candidates from MLS.
Vermes was asked Friday about potential interest in the U.S. job, and effectively gave a non-answer: “That’s not something I would talk about at this time,” he said. “You guys have heard me in the past — the one thing I’ve always said (is) anybody is going to listen to somebody when they come and talk to you. I’m not talking to anybody. I have a team right now that I’m focused on, which is Sporting Kansas City. This is my job. This is what I’m going to do.”
Oscar Pareja — FC Dallas
Pareja would have been at the top of this list, or very near the top, had U.S. Soccer moved to appoint a long-term successor after firing Klinsmann. FC Dallas’ late-season nosedive – nine points from the club’s last 13 games – is a slight blemish on his résumé. But that résumé overall qualifies him for this job. He’s had success in both Colorado in Dallas, and draws rave reviews from many who work with him. At Dallas, he’s had great success working with the club’s academy and integrating its products. Don’t rule him out because of Dallas’ recent struggles.
Jesse Marsch — New York Red Bulls
Marsch was another favorite 11 months ago. Like Pareja, he’s been far from perfect since then. But he has the Red Bulls back in the playoffs after topping the Eastern Conference table in both 2015 and 2016. He plays an up-tempo, intense style, he has extensive playing and coaching experience in MLS, he has national team experience (as an assistant under Bob Bradley in 2010 and 2011), and is generally well-thought of in U.S. soccer circles. As with Pareja, don’t bump him out of the top tier just because he isn’t the hottest candidate right now.
Gerardo Martino — Atlanta United
Current Atlanta United boss who has engineered a wildly successful first campaign in MLS. He has both high-level club experience – one year at Barcelona – and international experience – four years with Paraguay, two with Argentina. He’d provide an attractive balance between knowledge of American soccer and a big reputation around the world. But would he even necessarily want the job?
For more on Martino, you can read Leander Schaerlaeckens’ feature on him from earlier this year.
Greg Vanney — Toronto FC
Vanney has managed Toronto to what could become the greatest MLS season ever. And he’s been building toward this ever since he got the job in 2014. Yes, he has a lot of talent to work with, and a club willing to spend at his back, but he’s had a sizable role in all the success as well. And he’s a former U.S. national teamer and MLSer as a player. He hasn’t really been mentioned much in this discussion over the past year, but given TFC’s recent dominance, he probably should be.
David Wagner — Huddersfield Town
Wagner is a German-American who is more German than American, but who appeared eight times for the U.S. national team during his playing career. His club career as a player spanned 15 years, all in Germany, and he has little to no experience in the American game. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He worked under Jurgen Klopp for four years at Borussia Dortmund, managing the reserves, then moved to England to take over Huddersfield, which at the time was struggling in the Championship. He took Huddersfield up to the Premier League last spring, and has guided the Terriers to a strong start in their first season in the top flight.
His pressing style is appealing, and would seemingly fit the U.S. player pool. But the strange thing here is that, if Wagner hadn’t played eight times for the national team last century, we wouldn’t be mentioning him at all here.
Juan Carlos Osorio — Mexico national team
Osorio has experience in and knowledge of MLS and American soccer stemming from managerial stints with the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls last decade. And he’s underappreciated and constantly under pressure as the current head honcho in Mexico. But if USSF targets him, it’d have to wait until after the 2018 World Cup – at which point, by the way, other experienced international managers could also become available. So is U.S. soccer willing to go eight months without a permanent men’s national team coach?
Caleb Porter — Portland Timbers
Another name that has been floated intermittently ever since he began having success in Portland is Porter’s. His background is in the college ranks, where he led one of the nation’s top programs, Akron. He also spent a(n unsuccessful) year with the U.S. under-23s, before getting the Portland job in 2013. He won MLS Cup two years later, and employs an attractive, possession-based style of soccer that many fans would like. But results have been relatively pedestrian since the MLS Cup success, and the track record beyond that isn’t really there.
If we wanted to go on with this list, we could. We could name several other MLS coaches, including Patrick Vieira. And we could name several other prominent European managers, like Carlo Ancelotti, whom USSF could target if it wants to make another big splash. And especially if the decision won’t be made until months, dozens more names will be in play. But, for now, above are the most obvious candidates.
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.