On Monday, following last month’s surprise departure of Mark Carr for a head coaching position at the University of Oklahoma, U.S. Soccer announced that now-former Utah Royals FC head coach Laura Harvey will be leading the Under-20 United States Women’s National Team.
Harvey’s first duties include overseeing the current U-20 USWNT camp, which runs from January 9th to the 20th. After that, her first international matches as head coach will be the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship in February, which are the qualifiers for this year’s FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. Harvey’s duties will also include “manag[ing] the integration and programming of the U-18 and U-19 [Women] National Teams.”
External Links (U.S. Soccer):
- Laura Harvey Hired As New Head Coach Of U-20 USWNT
- Q&A: Laura Harvey on Becoming U-20 WNT Head Coach and Challenges Ahead
- Biography: U-20 WNT Head Coach Laura Harvey
- Fear (of not qualifying due to the likely reduction of qualification slots because of Costa Rica and Panama jointly hosting this year’s U-20 WWC)
- Uncertainty (due to the departure of Mark Carr), and
- Doubt (because of the U-20’s less-than-convincing yet unsurprising performance at the Nike Friendlies)
of December, the news of Harvey’s hiring is certainly welcomed. Résumé-wise, Harvey will be the best coach the U-20 WNT has had since the late Tony DiCicco took over for Jill Ellis during the 2008 cycle. Quality-wise, this hire is at least the best since Steve Swanson (2012 cycle), if not earlier.
Although the England-born Harvey is mostly known for coaching professional teams, she does have some experience with international youth teams, previously leading England’s U-15 girls’ national team and serving as an assistant for England’s U-17 and U-19 squads. More recently, she has served as a scout for the USA’s U-17 WNT.
Given the timing of Carr’s departure, less than two months before CONCACAF qualifying, it seemed doubtful that U.S. Soccer could find a permanent replacement in short order (especially because of the Chicago residency requirement), let alone a high quality hire such as Harvey.
While Harvey will not have any formal international matches with the U-20 USWNT prior to qualifying, the new format of the CONCACAF youth championships, with the top 16 teams divided into groups of 4 and the top 3 teams in each group advancing to a 16-team knockout bracket, essentially gives Harvey a trio of “preparatory” matches against minnows to work out any minor kinks.
Additionally, Harvey should have a good working relationship with U-17 USWNT head coach Tracey Kevins, as Kevins served as an assistant under Harvey for two seasons, when Harvey coached the Seattle Reign.
A secondary benefit of Harvey’s hiring is that U.S. Soccer now has a first-choice back-up head coach* for the USWNT already in its stable. So, if Vlatko Andonovski suddenly steps down in the run-up to the Olympics, he can be quickly replaced by Harvey without going through an extensive hiring process.
*Or, perhaps more correctly “interim head coach-in-waiting.”
The Athletic – Kate Markgraf Q&A: Hiring Laura Harvey as U.S. U-20 coach and what constitutes success in 2020 (subscription required)
This 2500+ word interview article is well-worth reading for understanding the process behind the hiring as well as insights to Markgraf’s nascent tenure as USWNT general manager.
In the interview, Markgraf confirms that U-17 USWNT head coach Tracey Kevins renewed her contract in December, so that team.
Also, there should be an U-18 USWNT camp in January.