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Reports: USWNT set to hire Chelsea’s Emma Hayes as next head coach

Emma Hayes will step down as Chelsea head coach at the end of the 2023-24 Women's Super League season. (Chris Lee/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Emma Hayes is set to become the next head coach of the U.S. women’s national team, according to multiple reports.

The 47-year-old from England is stepping down as Chelsea head coach at the end of the Women’s Super League season, the club said Saturday. That announcement coincided with a flurry of reports that she is in advanced discussions with U.S. Soccer to take the helm of the national team.

Hayes’ is the “first choice” for the USWNT job, The Telegraph’s Tom Garry reported. The Athletic’s Meg Linehan and David OrnsteinThe Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf and Backheeled’s Joseph Lowery also confirmed that Hayes is in line for the USWNT opening.

While the Women’s Super League season does not end until May 2024, Hayes could join the USWNT during international breaks over the next seven months before stepping into the role full-time at the conclusion of the season, Backheeled reported.

Since Vlatko Andonovksi stepped down as USWNT manager in August in the aftermath of a disappointing World Cup run, Twila Kilgore has served as interim head coach for the September and October training camps. U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker had set a target deadline of December for the hiring of Andonovski’s replacement.

Hayes joined Chelsea as head coach in 2012. In her 11 seasons with the club, not including the 2023-24 season, she has won six league titles, five FA Cups, two FA League Cups and one Community Shield. Through five matches this season, Chelsea sit atop the WSL standings with 13 points.

“Given everything she has contributed to Chelsea in over a decade with the club, and the legacy she leaves behind, we would never stand in her way when she felt it was the right time to pursue a new challenge,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said in a news release.

“We are pleased that she will remain with the club for the remainder of the season to give us the time to identify her successor.”

Before joining Chelsea, Hayes worked in the United States as part of the Women’s Professional Soccer league, a precursor to the NWSL. Hayes served as the head coach for the Chicago Red Stars from 2008 until 2010 and then as the technical director for the Western New York Flash in 2011.

Hayes’ hiring by the USWNT comes as something of a surprise, as the The Athletic had reported that U.S. Soccer had three names at the top of its shortlist — and Hayes was not among them. Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson, Juventus head coach Joe Montemurro and OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey were the three candidates identified at the time, though The Athletic also had noted that others remained in consideration.

While she had not been linked to the USWNT job before Saturday, she had long been considered a contender due to her strong résumé. And at Chelsea, she is coaching two up-and-coming USWNT stars in Catarina Macario and Mia Fishel.