Even before Vlatko Andonovski officially resigned as head coach of the U.S. women’s national team, the debates about who should replace him already had begun.
Despite the many differing opinions, everyone can agree on this: The new USWNT coach will face a tall task in preparing the team for next summer’s Olympics. And while the USWNT job is arguably the most desirable position in women’s soccer, it comes with great expectations.
Who has the skills and experience needed to lead the USWNT into its next era? Just Women’s Sports takes a look.
Note: Sarina Wiegman is not on this list because she has made it pretty clear that she is committed to remaining with England.
One report already has linked Cortés to the USWNT as a possible replacement for Andonovski. The former head coach of FC Barcelona Femení, he is stepping down as coach of the Ukrainian women’s national team at the end of August upon the expiration of his contract.
Per The Athletic, Cortes had been in conversations with some NWSL clubs, but Relevo has reported that he also has been contacted by U.S. Soccer. Under his tutelage, Barcelona won the 2020-21 UEFA Women’s Champions League title. The team finished as runners-up in 2018-19 and twice won the Copa de la Reina.
Donaldson might be a sleeper pick for the USWNT head coach, but he’d make a lot of sense. His connection to Sophia Smith, Jaelin Howell and Mallory Swanson — all of whom he helped develop at the youth level — is intriguing, and his success with Jamaica despite limited resources even moreso.
One big knock against Donaldson is his limited experience, having only coached at the developmental club level and now for the Jamaican national team. But he is worth consideration, especially after leading Jamaica to its first-ever knockout round at the 2023 World Cup.
The Australia head coach feels like a somewhat natural hire for the USWNT. A longtime assistant coach for the U.S. under two separate head coaches, Gustavsson was a key member of the coaching staff for a long time. So long, in fact, that he designed the set piece plays that helped Carli Lloyd score twice during the 2015 World Cup final.
The one thing Gustavsson lacked in earlier USWNT coaching searches was head coaching experience. Since 2019, though, he took the helm for Australia, coaching the Matildas to their first-ever World Cup semifinal appearance.
Harvey is the lone NWSL manager on this list solely because the USWNT needs a coach with quality international experience (the Mark Parsons Netherlands era is an automatic disqualifier).
The OL Reign head coach has that experience – and with the USWNT. She’s worked as a head coach at the developmental levels while also serving as an assistant coach to the senior team from 2020 through 2021. She also has experience as a youth assistant in the England national team system. In short: Harvey checks most, if not all, of the boxes.
The three-time NWSL coach of the year, she also won six trophies while coaching at Arsenal. From her time as manager of the U-20 U.S. national team, she knows many of the younger players who are coming up in the ranks and will be tasked with taking over the USWNT and carrying on the legacy. And while she has said her priority right now remains with OL Reign, she has not ruled out the possibility of a return to the USWNT.
“I enjoyed my time at U.S. Soccer. That’s no doubt,” she said. “The U.S. women’s national team is probably the top job in the world, if not a top three job in the world. That’s just reality. And if my name is anywhere near it, then that’s an honor.”
Emma Hayes has found immense success with Chelsea in the Women’s Super League, and she has been discussed before as a possible coach for England. She is familiar with the U.S. system, having coached at the collegiate level and for the Chicago Red Stars from 2008 to 2010. And since 2012, she has built Chelsea into a powerhouse program in the WSL.
Recently, Hayes signed USWNT star midfielder Catarina Macario and prospect Mia Fishel, and she has long coached Australian star Sam Kerr, so she’d clearly have some pull with players on the team. Whether or not she wants to leave what she’s building at Chelsea, however, remains to be seen.