Next USWNT Coach: Five Candidates to Replace Jill Ellis as Women's Soccer Manager

Less than a month after winning a second consecutive World Cup, the U.S. Women's National Team (USWNT) has been left without a coach.

On Tuesday, Jill Ellis announced she would step down from the role she has held since 2014. Her contract is due to expire on Wednesday and the 52-year-old has declined an option that would have kept her in charge through to next summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Ellis, who was born in England but is an American citizen, is the first coach to win back-to-back World Cup titles in either the male or female for 81 years. She will remain in charge until October, with the USWNT due to play five friendlies on their victory tour.

"When I accepted the head coaching position this was the timeframe I envisioned," Ellis said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The timing is right to move on and the program is positioned to remain at the pinnacle of women's soccer. Change is something I have always embraced in my life and for me and my family this is the right moment."

U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro praised the departing coach for "raising the bar" for women's soccer in the U.S. and across the world.

"Jill was always extremely passionate about this team, analytical, tremendously focused and not afraid to make tough decisions while giving her players the freedom to play to their strengths," he said. "She helped raise the bar for women's soccer in the USA and the world, and given the history of this program, the level of success she achieved is even more remarkable."

U.S. Soccer is yet to appoint a formal replacement for Ellis and is still looking to fill the vacancy of general manager. The role was created in 2017 and Ellis was expected to be in the running, but U.S. Soccer has been tight-lipped on the matter and simply confirmed an announcement over the role "will take place soon."

Once the general manager vacancy has been filled, the federation will begin the search for a new coach.

Here, Newsweek has taken a look at five candidates who could replace Ellis at the helm of USWNT.

Jill Ellis, USWNT
Jill Ellis, Head Coach of USA, celebrates following her side's victory in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 7 in Lyon, France. Maja Hitij/Getty

Paul Riley

Over the last two seasons, Riley has transformed the North Carolina Courage into one of the best teams in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), finishing runner-up in 2017 and winning the title last year.

The 55-year-old, who won the 2016 title when in charge of the Western New York Flash, is arguably the most successful coach in women's soccer right now.

By the 2023 World Cup, Riley would be nine years older than Ellis was when she took charge of USWNT at the 2015 tournament. It remains to be seen whether U.S. Soccer would be happy to appoint a manager who might oversee just one World Cup cycle.

Laura Harvey

Could another Englishwoman replace Ellis? Harvey won the NWSL Shield twice during her five-year in charge of Seattle Reign and was named NWSL Coach of the Year in the same two seasons.

The current Utah Royals coach has experience at international level too, having served as interim coach of USWNT U-23 side in 2017.

An outspoken campaigner for women's football development, earlier this month Harvey strongly defended U.S. Soccer from criticism it wasn't doing enough to promote the NWSL. The 39-year-old instead insisted it was down to everyone involved with the league to promote the product.

Mark Krikorian

It's been 16 years since Krikorian was last involved in professional soccer and 15 since took charge of the USWNT at the U-19 World Cup in Thailand.

All the same, the Florida State coach shouldn't be discounted. Since joining the Seminoles in 2005, he has won three ACC regular-season titles and six ACC Tournaments, the most recent of which came in 2018.

Florida State has reached the College Cup nine times and has played in the NCAA title game in four occasions, winning in 2014 and 2018. As far as resumes go, Krikorian's is of the highest level.

Sarina Wiegman

Arguably the most left-field option among Ellis' possible replacements, the Dutch would make for an intriguing appointment.

A former North Carolina student, Wiegman won three domestic cups and one league title as a manager in Holland before taking charge of the national side with spectacular results.

In 2017 she guided the Oranjeleeuwinnen to victory at the Women's European Championship—the country's first triumph in a major international tournament—and earlier this month Holland reached the World Cup final, losing 2-0 to USWNT.

Luring Wiegman away from Holland might be difficult but the chance to take charge of the best team in women's soccer might prove too tempting to resist.

Sarina Wiegman, Holland Women
Sarina Wiegman of Holland Women during the World Cup Women match between USA v Holland at the Stade de Lyon on July 7 in Lyon France Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty

Jitka Klimkova

Klimkova is familiar with most of the young players on USWNT roster as she's been in charge the USWNT U-20 since 2017.

The continuity the former Czech Republic international would provide would be much welcome in an environment where, at times, equilibrium was at a premium—even under Ellis. Additionally, a woman coach would send a strong signal at a time when USWNT and U.S. Soccer are embroiled in a dispute over the gender pay gap.

Conversely, the fact Klimkova failed to take the team past the group stage at the U-20 World Cup last year might count against her.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

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