Updates on a Possible New League and The Search for the Next USWNT Head Coach

On Friday, Sunil Gulati held a conference call where he provided updates on the search for the next head coach of the United States Women’s National Team and the possibility of a new women’s professional league. A quote sheet is available at USSoccer.com.

Regarding the search, Gulati indicated that the search committee has been quite active in discussing potential candidates and conducting interviews. Also, the soft deadline for a decision is still the end of October. In the mean time, Jill Ellis will be the interim head coach.

As to the new league, Gulati stated that there are eleven candidate owners in ten cities/market and that U.S. Soccer is in the process of vetting those owners. The league is still looking at a Spring 2013 launch, however a specific timeline has not given.

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THE INTERIM USWNT HEAD COACH IS…

Jill Ellis. This is not really a surprise, given the limited pool of assistant head coaches. Additionally, Gulati has made it clear that Ellis is not a candidate for the head coaching job:

“Jill essentially took herself out of the running to be the permanent coach a month or so ago when we started this process. She is coaching these games and the team on an interim basis because she’s been an assistant coach, is a terrific part of our staff and is on a full-time contract with U.S. Soccer. But she took herself out of the process for reasons that I think she’s mentioned previously.”

Gulati’s comments (see below) indicate that the search for the next head coach is being conducted in a deliberate and thorough fashion, so it is possible that Ellis could be the interim head coach for the remainder of the Fan Tribute series.

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THE SEARCH

The highlights from the quote sheet:

  • There have been “25 to 30 inquiries” by potential candidates.
  • “We had a number of interviews this past Wednesday in Chicago with our search committee.”
  • “We don’t have a short list per se but we’re still talking to people in this first round of interviews.”
  • “The timetable is still to try to bring this process to a conclusion by the end of October, but we don’t have a critical cut-off date…” (due to the lack of any official competitions in the short-term.
  • On whether April Heinrichs is a coaching candidate:… ‘she’s not currently a candidate.'”

The main two takeaways from Gulati’s comments are (1) that the search committee is actively in the middle of the search process and (2) that the soft deadline is the end of October, but there is no hard deadline other than the first camp of 2013. Although, the no “critical cut-off date” mention is probably part negotiation tactic.

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A NEW LEAGUE?

The last part of the discussion was on a new women’s professional league in the United States. From the quote sheet:

“The third element is that we had a call today with the leadership of U.S. Soccer and potential investor, owner-operators from 11 groups representing 10 cities for the possibility of a new women’s professional league for next year. That discussion went very well.”

Currently, U.S. Soccer is in the process of vetting potential investors and team-owners:

“We filled them in on a number of things of our possible participation and really where we right now is talking with them as well as starting a process of vetting those potential investors on financial and other financial, operational, organizational management guidelines. We’ve asked them for their own operational plans, their own budgets and so on and we’re starting a process to vet them through an auditing process to make sure that they’re up to the level that we’d want for this league. I’m not going to get into the specific 10 markets and 11 investor-operators. They are spread across the country. There are some former professional teams that are obviously part of that group, some current MLS teams investor-operators are part of that group and we expect to have that process pretty much completed by the end of October as well.”

Gulati’s comments seem to indicate that U.S. Soccer is not just facilitating the creation of the new league, but spearheading it by taking a very active role. And, as noted by Richard Farley on ProSoccerTalk.com, it seems that the league proposed from August will never get past the press release stage.

As to how the league would be managed, Gulati indicated that the USL would manage the ‘front office’ aspects of the potential new league:

“The USL is part of this structure and would handle the front office possibilities, if we pull this together.”

Given the USL’s involvement is, it is possible that the league’s moniker could be “W*Pro” (teaser website: http://www.wprosoccer.com, see this Potomac Soccer Wire article from May for more details).

And, regarding the potential markets, this is as specific as Gulati got:

“In the 10 potential markets that I have outlined, we in fact have teams and interest and multiple levels of interest: two in each part of the country in terms of east, west and Midwest, and central.”

Gulati was not specific regarding a timeline for launching the proposed new league, which is aiming for a Spring 2013 launch. However, realistically, firm foundations need to be laid before the end of the year. Otherwise, players may seek out opportunities overseas in Europe and Japan during the Winter transfer windows.