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What the USWNT can expect from next head coach Emma Hayes

Emma Hayes, set to be named the next USWNT head coach, has won six league titles with Chelsea. (Julian Finney/UEFA via Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team fans got an unexpected piece of welcome news on Saturday, as multiple reports linked longtime Chelsea manager Emma Hayes to the open head coaching position for the former No. 1 team in the world. Hayes has been confirmed to leave Chelsea at the end of this WSL season, at which point she is expected to lead the USWNT to the 2024 Olympics.

Hayes was not on the shortlist reported by The Athletic last month, which named Australia’s Tony Gustavsson, OL Reign’s Laura Harvey and Juventus’ Joe Montemurro as the three preferred candidates for the job. But to many, she’s seen as the best hire U.S. Soccer could have persuaded to make the jump.

Hayes has won six WSL titles with Chelsea, including the past four years running. She’s also won five FA Cups, two League Cups and one Community Shield. She became the face of the sport’s evolution in England, both as a trailblazer in convincing one of the country’s top clubs to invest in the women’s game and as a manager who maintained an advantage as others followed suit.

Hayes brings a critical eye to a U.S. team at a crossroads. The USWNT’s development and tactical style have struggled to keep the world at arms length, as the global game catches up in women’s national team investment. Here’s what the USWNT can expect from their anticipated hire.

Right coach at the right time

Hayes has a familiarity with the American development pipeline and league systems, without being too close to the program to make bold decisions. One concern about an NWSL hire like Harvey was that coaches with preconceived notions of the USWNT hierarchy might be reluctant to make the necessary changes to push the team into a new era of women’s soccer.

In her time at Chelsea, Hayes seemed to have an eye for emerging superstars, famously recruiting Sam Kerr from the NWSL in 2019, and has always looked for American talent like Crystal Dunn in 2017 and most recently bringing in Americans Catarina Macario and Mia Fishel. She demonstrated an understanding of North American soccer, signing top Canadians Ashley Lawrence and Jessie Fleming as well.

Hayes also has experience coaching in the U.S., managing the Chicago Red Stars in WPS from 2008-10 and serving as technical director for the Western New York Flash and a consultant for the Washington Freedom. She returned to England without an incredible resume — she registered a 23% win percentage in her time in Chicago — but her growth as a manager since then sets her up to return with valuable experience.

If USWNT fans grew impatient with Vlatko Andonovski’s rigidity in his four-year stint with the team, they have reason to be excited for what Hayes brings. Her Chelsea teams are a testament to her willingness to try new things, both in personnel and the team’s style of play. She’s tried the Chelsea defense in both a four- and a three-back based on available players, and she can push the team into a high-flying attack against a bunker but isn’t unwilling to prioritize full-team defense against top competition.

That openness in philosophy should serve Hayes well at the international level and offset some of the perennial concerns of a club manager making the leap to a national team. The nature of the two jobs is very different. Hayes will have to get used to implementing her ideas in just a few weeks out of the year, compared to many months at the club level. She will also have to adjust to the scouting realities of a national team manager, no longer able to compile talent from other countries the way she’s done so well with Chelsea.

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Hayes recruited USWNT forward Mia Fishel from Liga MX Femenil this season. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

History has a way of repeating itself

Hayes’ club record also provides a certain amount of intrigue, especially in the context of her predecessor. Coaching the USWNT requires many jobs within one — managing superstars and bubble players alike, having an eye on the development pipeline to maintain the health of the program and winning. U.S. Soccer and USWNT fans have both felt the conflict between the team trying to reinvent itself while also refusing to drop friendlies against top opponents. Hayes will be a perfect fit for the latter assignment; her Chelsea teams dropped very few games in which they were favored.

But Andonovski came into the role with similar club accolades, and in the end he was not the right manager to see the USWNT through knockout matches against the world’s best. And while Hayes has dominated all facets of English football for many years, there is one trophy that continues to elude her. Her Chelsea teams have never won the Champions League, losing handily to Barcelona in the one final they reached under Hayes. She’s not immune to being out-coached in the heat of a must-win game, and her Chelsea teams don’t always start hot out of the gate.

There is also the issue of U.S. Soccer’s reported plan for the build-up to the Olympics, which would require either interim manager Twila Kilgore or a member of Hayes’ new staff to guide the team until Hayes has finished her final Chelsea campaign in May 2024. It appears the U.S. would rather get their preferred candidate for the long-term future than make a hasty hire with the Olympics in mind, but pressure will be on Hayes to communicate her scouting and tactical ideas through the grapevine. Everyone will expect the USWNT to contend for the Olympic gold after a disappointing World Cup campaign.

Unclear communication and a sacrificed major tournament could complicate Hayes’ place in the locker room before she even gets a chance to run the team full-time, especially with a player pool as competitive as the USWNT’s. But her track record of managing those moments is as strong as they come, and if anyone can handle a tricky transition, it would be a coach of her caliber. The U.S. has found their coach, and now it’s time for her to build a team that can contend for glory once again.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

The Late Sub Podcast: Can the USWNT Medal?

The USWNT takes a silly face photo during their team Olympic photo shoot
The USWNT will begin their 2024 Olympic medal hunt on Thursday. (Brad Smith/ISI/Getty Images).

This week, JWS podcast host Claire Watkins discusses WNBA All-Star Weekend, which felt both like a celebration of the league's explosive growth over the past year and a way to set Team USA up for a particularly competitive Summer Olympics.

Later, Watkins previews the field for the upcoming Olympic soccer tournament, nominating her personal "Group of Death" and discussing whether or not the new-era USWNT could still reach medal contention despite their current rebuild under new head coach Emma Hayes.

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Team USA, Germany Play Pre-Olympic Exhibition Game in London

Team USA's 5x5 Basketball Team stands for the National Anthem before Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game
Team USA looks to rebound from Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game loss in an exhibition against Germany today. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

USA Basketball's 5x5 team will tip off in an exhibition against Germany in London this afternoon, getting in one last tune-up before the Summer Olympics begin.

The US is hunting an eighth-straight gold medal this year, with group stage play starting on July 29th.

Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to face Germany in pre-Olympic exhibition.
Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to take on Germany in London. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

US to use All-Star loss as fuel

Coming off the weekend's All-Star Game loss, the Olympians are ready to repeat history: They earned their Tokyo gold medal immediately after losing the first Team USA vs. Team WNBA All-Star Game back in 2021.

Breanna Stewart, who led Team USA with a 31-point, 10-rebound double-double on Saturday, said that the defeat "is going to help us tremendously. We don’t get that many game opportunities, [and now] we can go back and watch the film and focus on how we can continue to be better."

Today’s tilt against Germany will see the US work to lock in their defense, particularly in the paint. They'll also lean into their positional versatility before heading to Paris.

WNBA pro Satou Sabally leads Team Germany in today's pre-Olympic exhibition game against Team USA.
WNBA pro Satou Sabally helped Germany to their first-ever Olympic berth. (Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Olympic debutants Germany enter first US clash

The exhibition marks the first-ever US-Germany linkup. The German team will make their Olympic debut in Paris after decades of failing to qualify for major international competitions. Their sixth-place 2023 EuroBasket finish sent them into February’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they punched their ticket to the 2024 Games.

Leading Germany's run was two-time WNBA All-Star Satou Sabally, who put up career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists, and steals with Dallas last season. Her 20-point, 11-rebound double-double was the difference-maker in Germany's must-win 73-71 Olympic qualifying victory over Brazil.

Other German players to watch include 2022 NY Liberty draft-pick — and Sabally's sister — Nyara Sabally, along with Liberty sharpshooter Leonie Fiebich.

Where to watch the Team USA vs. Germany game

Today’s exhibition tips off at 3 PM ET with live coverage on FS1.

1v1 With Kelley O’Hara: USWNT Star Jaedyn Shaw Is Expecting “Dubs All Around”

retired uswnt star kelley o'hara interviewing san diego wave and uswnt forward jaedyn shaw
'1v1' is back with Jaedyn Shaw joining Kelley O'Hara for a conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics. (Just Women's Sports)

In the latest episode of Just Women's Sports' 1v1 With Kelley O'Hara, San Diego Wave and USWNT star Jaedyn Shaw joins two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Kelley O'Hara for a one-on-one conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics.

We hear from the 19-year-old Wave FC phenom about her first impressions of new USWNT coach Emma Hayes, her experience with international competition at this point in her young career, and how she's preparing to take on the 2024 Summer Games.

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The 91st: Complete USWNT & Olympic Soccer Preview Featuring Jess McDonald

Logo for JWS USWNT Olympic show The 91st
The latest season of JWS' awarding-winning Olympics show 'The 91st' premieres today. (Just Women's Sports)

We're back! Hosts Jordan Angeli, Duda Pavao, and retired USWNT forward Jess McDonald deliver a full preview of this year's Olympic soccer tournament in Paris.

Watch for full analysis of USWNT manager Emma Hayes's coaching style, this team's shifting identity in this new USWNT era, and a projected starting XI for the team's group stage opener against Zambia. The 91st hosts also break down all three Olympic groups — including top players and teams to track throughout the tournament — plus give their predictions for the medal rounds and individual awards.

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