‘Goodbye, cowboy’: United States fires Gregg Berhalter after Copa America failure

The technical director of USAGregg Berhalter was fired following his team’s early elimination from the Copa America on July 1.

The 1-0 defeat against the Uruguayan team in Kansas City, Missouri, was painful because USA was the host of the tournament, which is normally held in South America.

It is the first time that the host country has not progressed to the knockout stage since the format was introduced in 1975.

“Our immediate goal is to find a head coach who can maximize our potential as we continue to prepare for the 2026 World Cup, and we have already begun our search process,” U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker said in a statement.

What is the United States preparing after the elimination?

The United States is preparing to host the 2026 World Cup together with Mexico and Canada. Its goal is to showcase the results of a years-long effort to raise the quality of American soccer to the level of the best teams in Europe and South America. The United States has only advanced past the round of 16 once in modern history, at the 2002 World Cup, when it qualified for the quarterfinals.

Berhalter, 50, has faced heavy criticism during his two-time helm since 2018. In addition to disappointing tournament performances, including his teams’ multiple failures to win at the Concacaf Gold Cup and the North American continental tournament, he has also been criticized for poor tactics and weak leadership.

The latter was recently highlighted by an incident during the then goalless match against Uruguay, in which he appeared to encourage his team by informing them that they would still qualify for the next round if the results held, because Panama and Bolivia, the other two members of their group, were tied in the other match. Later, Uruguay marked and USA was eliminated.

Asked at his post-match press conference if he was still the right man for the job, Berhalter replied: “Yes.”

But the U.S. federation disagreed and fired Berhalter just over a year after rehiring him to coach the team.

A strong showing by the U.S. team, which features players with extensive European club experience such as Milan’s Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, was expected. The U.S.’s matches against the likes of Brazil and Argentina were also expected to boost the tournament’s audience in a market key to soccer’s global growth.

When did Berhalter join the US National Team?

Berhalter originally took over in 2018, but his contract was allowed to expire at the end of 2022 and a pair of interim managers took over in his absence. He was rehired in June 2023, with Crocker at the time citing his “vision, as well as experience and growth mindset on and off the field” as the reason behind the decision.

Crocker has since changed his mind and expressed his disappointment with the team’s performance. “We have to do better,” he said after the match against Uruguay.

Note from Guillermo Molero