There is no doubt that the departure of Earnie Stewart from the American Soccer Federation will affect the men’s program more than the women’s program. Stewart had more direct involvement in the men’s program and much more experience as a former Hall of Fame player.
But it was not a one-way street. Stewart was a regular presence at U.S. Women’s Team games, often with general manager Kate Markgraf. She reported to him, as did outgoing National Men’s Team General Manager Brian McBride.
This element of the hierarchy of American football has been important. Having a clear No 1 leader at the top of the sporting side of the governing body meant chief executives did not have to report to someone whose job includes business considerations, not just those of football.
Stewart’s contract with US Soccer was to last until 2026. It is unclear when Markgraf’s contract expired; she was hired in August 2019. President Cindy Cone told a press conference Thursday that she hoped Stewart’s successor would be in place before the start of the Women’s World Cup in late July. Until then, Markgraf will report to CEO JT Batson, who reports to Cone, a former Hall of Fame player in full for the USWNT.
With the World Cup coming up and the Olympics next year, Markgraf isn’t going anywhere for a while. Cone and Batson made that clear when discussing Stewart’s exit.
“We have real confidence in the leadership of our women’s national team, in Kate and Vlatko [Andonovski, the manager] and the team,” Batson said, “and are super excited for what they’re doing this summer and the Women’s World Cup.
» READ MORE: Earnie Stewart and Brian McBride leave US Soccer
US Soccer’s ongoing internal review of its sports structure – which is separate from the external forensic investigation into the Reyna/Berhalter scandal – has now grown to such magnitude that the governing body has hired consultancy Sportsology for the review. ‘help. Cone said Sportsology’s role will include judging exactly what job titles should be.
“Once we have more clarity on what this department should look like going forward, we will determine what leadership and support is needed,” she said. “We still have a general manager on the women’s side, and we are very happy, and believe we have the best team in place for our women’s national team as we head into the Women’s World Cup.”
It is possible that there is no more GM. It’s also possible, Cone said, that the men’s and women’s national teams don’t have the same structure. It might present an optical problem if fans think the two sides aren’t getting equal treatment, but Cone is willing to go that route.
“We recognize that teams sometimes have different needs,” she said. “And so we will be evaluating that over the next period, with Sportsology, to determine what is the best structure for our men’s national team. Is it the same as the women’s national team or should it be slightly different? »
It would be surprising to say the least if the structure of the next era left the women’s team behind. Cone isn’t just a former star player, she secured the equal pay deal for current players that none of her predecessors could.
“We will be evaluating the general manager position along with all of the other athletic department positions as part of this holistic review that we are doing,” Cone said. “And as I said before, we are not determined to have exactly the same structure on the men’s side as we have on the women’s side. And we will assess that and see what changes we need to make.
The next gathering of the USA women’s team will be next month, for the annual SheBelieves Cup tournament which it hosts. The Americans will face Brazil, Canada and Japan in a round robin format, touring Orlando, Nashville and suburban Dallas. The tournament begins in Orlando on February 16 – coincidentally the day after Stewart’s last official day with US Soccer.
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