Earnie Stewart exit leaves USMNT leadership in flux through end of summer

U.S. Soccer Federation sporting director Earnie Stewart is leaving to join PSV Eindhoven after the departure of men's national team general manager Brian McBride, a management shakeup that leaves the position of men's coach Gregg Berhalter in uncertainty.

Berhalter and McBride were hired by Stewart, and the coach's contract expired Dec. 31. McBride's exit had previously been reported by ESPN.

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"While we are sad to see Earnie go, he has helped lay a strong foundation and build a strong sporting staff to ensure that the future of U.S. Soccer is bright," U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said in a statement.

"Today, we have a unique opportunity to bring in a new Sporting Director to build on this momentum. We are eager to engage new leaders who will match our ambitions and realize our vision for the future, taking our National Teams to the next level, including competing for a FIFA World Cup on home soil in 2026."

The USSF has hired consultancy firm Sportsology to handle the search for Stewart's replacement.

Sportsology has also been tasked with "a full review of U.S. Soccer's sporting department."

Stewart said in the statement: "When the opportunity arose to return to the Netherlands to pursue an exciting and challenging role that was near my family, I could not turn it down.

"I am extremely proud of what our sporting department has accomplished over the past four years to advance the next generation of players and increase participation in the sport across the country.

"This is a pivotal time for the sport in the United States and I have full confidence in the leadership of U.S. Soccer heading into 2026 and beyond. It has been an honor to represent the U.S. Soccer Federation again in this capacity and I look forward to continuing to support U.S. Soccer in my next chapter and in the future."

With the contract of USMNT World Cup manager Berhalter having expired at the end of 2022, the position of coach is currently being filled by Anthony Hudson on an interim basis.

Sportsology will also analyze head-coach candidates to accelerate the sporting director's hiring process. Cone said she hoped to fill the positions of sporting director and USMNT manager "by the end of the summer." She later clarified her remarks to say that she hoped to have the sporting director position filled before the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. The sporting director, once hired, will drive the decision on a new USMNT manager.

Cone added that Berhalter "remains a candidate" to return as manager.

The U.S. men's national team program has been roiled by controversy involving Berhalter and the family of U.S. midfielder Gio Reyna. Berhalter's handling of Reyna before, during and after the World Cup -- which included nearly sending the player home due to a lack of effort in training -- led to the disclosure by the Reyna family of an incident of domestic violence involving Berhalter and his now-wife, Rosalind, back in 1991.

The USSF is continuing to investigate the incident. It was also revealed that the Reynas had been in contact with USSF executives about the player's role during the tournament.

When asked whether the investigation had any effect on the departures of Stewart and McBride, USSF CEO JT Batson said that the investigation had "no impact whatsoever."

Stewart, 53, is a former U.S. international, and he was hired as GM of the U.S. men's national team in June 2018. He was promoted to the position of sporting director a little over a year later, overseeing the revamping of the U.S. men's national team, including the team's qualification to the 2022 World Cup, as well as triumphs in the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League and 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

He also worked with women's national team GM Kate Markgraf in overseeing the U.S. women's national team, which included a third-place finish at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

McBride, 50, is also a former mainstay of the USMNT, having made 95 appearances. He was hired in January 2020 to be the USMNT GM.

In a statement, McBride said that he had made his decision to depart before the World Cup but delayed announcing it to keep the focus on the U.S. team. He added that he did explore taking on a new position with the USSF but decided to depart when the plans for that position "were put on hold."

"I'm looking forward to the opportunities ahead," McBride said.