June 23, 2024

U.S. Soccer confirmed Tuesday what had already been widely reported, selecting Chelsea manager Emma Hayes coach of the women’s national team. What the federation couldn’t say, however, is when the new coach will be able to meet with her players.

Hayes is under contract with Chelsea through the end of the Women’s Super League schedule in May and the club intends to keep her in the job. As a result, it’s unclear whether Hayes will be able to attend the national team’s final training camp of this year in December or the first training camps of 2024. After her Chelsea contract expires, she will have two months and four games with the U.S. team to prepare for the Paris Olympics tournament, which kicks off July 25.

Sources told Fox Sports that Hayes’ base salary would be $1.6 million a year, more than three times what Sarina Wiegman, manager of England’s national team and the highest-paid coach in women’s soccer, is reportedly paid. Vlatko Andonovski, the former USWNT coach, was paid $450,000 a year while Gregg Berhalter, coach of the men’s national team, made $1.6 million, according to the federation’s 2022 financial filings.

Chelsea was said to be offering Hayes four times her current salary to stay in London, but the coach, the mother of a 5-year-old son named Harry, has long talked about moving out of club soccer in search of a better life-work balance.

Interim coach Twila Kilgore will continue to manage the U.S. team in Hayes’ absence, then join her staff as a full-time assistant.

“This is a unique situation, but the team is in safe hands with Twila,” said Matt Crocker, U.S. Soccer’s sporting director and the man who chose Hayes for the job. “Her stewardship will be crucial during this period as we are focused on success at the Olympics.”

Andonovski stepped down after the U.S. was eliminated in the round of 16 in last summer’s World Cup, its earliest exit.

“This is a huge honor to be given the opportunity to coach the most incredible team in world football history,” Hayes, 47, said in a statement released by U.S. Soccer. “The feelings and connection I have for this team and for this country run deep. I’ve dreamed about coaching the USA for a long time, so to get this opportunity is a dream come true.”

Hayes, who was born in London, had her playing career cut short by an ankle injury at 17 and she quickly transitioned to coaching, first with Long Island in the now-defunct USL W League, where she was named coach of the year despite being the league’s youngest manager. At Iona College, she won two conference championships and another coach of the year award in four seasons before moving to the Chicago Red Stars of the WPS. She returned to England to take over at Chelsea in 2012, leading the Blues to 15 trophies, including six WSL titles and five FA Cups. She was named FIFA’s coach of the year in 2021.

When Hayes joins U.S. Soccer in late May, she’ll be taking over a national team in transition. Megan Rapinoe, 38, and Julie Ertz, 31, have played their final games for the U.S., and defender Becky Sauerbrunn, 38, might soon follow. Their places will be taken by young talents such as Alyssa Thompson, Jaedyn Smith, Naomi Girma and Trinity Rodman, none of whom are older than 23.

The U.S. finished third in the Tokyo Olympics, the second straight Olympics in which it failed to reach the gold-medal final. In the last four major international tournaments, the 2020 and 2016 Olympics and the 2023 and 2019 World Cups, the U.S. has made the final only once.

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