The American rebuild begins after dismal World Cup campaign

football21 August 2023 13:42| © Reuters
article image
Players of USA © Gallo Images

The United States have begun the process of rebuilding their women's team after the departure of their coach, general manager and a handful of influential players following the nation's most disappointing Women's World Cup campaign.

Spain defeated England 1-0 in Sunday's final in Sydney, capping the biggest-ever edition of the tournament that broke attendance and TV records, raising hopes of a surge in interest for the women's game.

The Americans, who own a record four World Cup titles and had never before finished worse than third place, left town long before the party was over after a shock defeat to Sweden in the last 16.

Days later, coach Vlatko Andonovski stepped down as coach, leaving every US fan wondering: 'Was this tournament a bump in the road or is this the end of an era for the most successful women's international football team?'

"It's imperative that we continue to evolve and innovate, and we are excited about the path that lies ahead," US Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker said in a statement last week.

"Our commitment to excellence remains unshakeable, and we believe this strategic plan will set the foundation for our women's national team to achieve greater heights in the years to come."

The former director of football operations at Premier League side Southampton is the man at the centre of the women's national team's long-term strategy at a pivotal moment for American soccer, with the men's tournament coming stateside in 2026.

Announced in the role in April, Crocker took the reins after the federation overhauled the scope of the sporting department, as the men's side offered a glimmer of hope by reaching the last 16 in Qatar after failing to qualify for the previous edition.

The US federation must also replace women's national team General Manager Kate Margkraf, whose departure was announced on Friday. She took the newly created position in 2019.

"There’s been a lot of great work that has been done by the sporting staff on the women’s side of the game at US Soccer, which means we are starting from a position of strength," Crocker said after Margkraf's departure.

"We're looking forward to building on what has been created already."


Andonovski, who previously coached in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), had no international experience before taking the helm for the US team - an omission to his resume that came under increasing scrutiny as the Americans' fortunes unravelled in New Zealand and Australia.

But the Macedonian-American never shied from bringing the next generation into the fold, as he fielded the least experienced US team in memory with 14 World Cup newcomers, compared to only eight in 2015.

A slew of injured players, including midfield stars Sam Mewis and Catarina Macario and top goalscorer Mallory Swanson, may have forced some of the new crop into the fore.

But fans looking for a glimmer of hope from the Americans' dismal campaign can look to the younger players.

Forward Sophia Smith, 23, recorded a brace in the US opener against Vietnam while 23-year-old defender Naomi Girma lived up to the hype on the back line.

The younger class that includes 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson will be in focus when the US travel to Paris for the 2024 Olympics after picking up bronze in Tokyo, with former captain Megan Rapinoe among the veterans expected to step aside.

Twice US Soccer Female Player of the Year Julie Ertz suggested that her time was up too following the defeat by Sweden.

"It s probably the last game ever being able to have the honour to wear this crest," she told Fox.

"But it is an honour to represent this team and I am excited for the future of the girls."