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Kate Markgraf will not return as USWNT general manager

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Kate Markgraf will exit as the general manager of the U.S. women’s national team when her contract expires at the end of August, U.S. Soccer announced Friday.

In August 2019, Markgraf became the first general manager of the USWNT. She helped hire head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who resigned Thursday, as the successor to coach Jill Ellis, who led the team to the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles. The Equalizer was the first to report Markgraf’s departure on Friday.

“It has been an incredible honor to work with the players, coaches and staff at U.S. Soccer on the mission of keeping our program at the top of the women’s game,” Markgraf said in a release. “I am proud of the foundation we have built, and even more proud of the character and commitment demonstrated by our players as they represent the United States on and off the field. I look forward to supporting all of our programs and have every confidence that we will maintain our standards of excellence moving forward.”

While U.S. Soccer had discussed a contract extension with Markgraf before the 2023 World Cup, she declined to sign one, sources told The Equalizer. Her departure from the role was planned ahead of the tournament and is not in reaction to the USWNT’s Round of 16 exit, per the report.

A former USWNT defender, Markgraf won the 1999 World Cup with the team and played in two more. She also won gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Following the dismissal of men’s national team general manager Brian McBride in January, U.S. Soccer hired Matt Crocker as its sporting director. The federation is not expected to hire a men’s general manager, instead giving some of those responsibilities to Crocker. Whether that also will be true of the USWNT general manager position remains to be seen.

“It’s imperative that we continue to evolve and innovate, and we are excited about the path that lies ahead,” Crocker said in a news release after Andonovski’s exit. “We understand the challenges and have engaged with stakeholders from various corners of our sport — players, coaches, and other individuals within the soccer landscape. The insights and perspectives gathered during these discussions have been instrumental in shaping our forward-looking plan.

“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.”

Markgraf and Andonovski’s departures come in the wake of the USWNT’s worst-ever finish at a World Cup. Before being eliminated by Sweden in a penalty shootout in the Round of 16 earlier this month, the U.S. had never exited before the semifinals.

U.S. Soccer has already begun reaching out to potential candidates for Andonovski’s replacement, including England coach Sarina Wiegman, who said Friday she has “no plans to leave” the Lionesses. After a disappointing World Cup finish, the USWNT is facing urgency to prepare for the next major tournament, the 2024 Paris Olympics next summer.