Emma Hayes officially has been named the head coach of the United States women’s national team, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced Tuesday.
“This is a huge honor to be given the opportunity to coach the most incredible team in world football history,” Hayes, the 10th full-time head coach in USWNT history, said in a statement. “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.
“I know there is work to do to achieve our goals of winning consistently at the highest levels. To get there, it will require dedication, devotion and collaboration from the players, staff and everyone at the U.S. Soccer Federation.”
Hayes will become the highest-paid women’s coach in the world, according to U.S. Soccer, surpassing England‘s Sarina Wiegman, who is believed to earn a base salary around $500,000. Sources told FOX Sports that Hayes’ base salary will be $1.6 million. This is the same figure that U.S. men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter makes, though that is a reflection of Hayes’ market value more than an attempt by U.S. Soccer to equalize what its men’s and women’s coaches are paid.
The longtime Chelsea manager won’t actually take over the four-time World Cup champions until May, as she will keep her current role in London to see the club through the 2023-24 Women’s Super League season.
In the meantime, Twila Kilgore will continue to fill in as the USWNT’s interim head coach, and then join Hayes’ full-time staff as an assistant coach. The squad’s next training camp begins after Thanksgiving, with two matches against China on Dec. 2 in Fort Lauderdale and again on Dec. 5 in Frisco, Texas.
Remaining with Chelsea for the next six months means Hayes will only have four matches to coach the U.S. before the 2024 Paris Olympics, which are in July and August. The USWNT will play several tuneup friendlies in the new year, including the CONCACAF W Gold Cup in March, ahead of next summer’s Games.
Despite some logistical gymnastics, U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker is confident Hayes, 47, will be worth the wait. In 11 years at Chelsea, she has helped the Blues win 14 major trophies and six Women’s Super League titles, including the last four in a row. She was named Best FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year in 2021 and is a finalist for the award this year. She also has coached some of the world’s top players, including Australia‘s superstar striker Sam Kerr.
According to U.S. Soccer, when it came to this coaching search, Crocker initially compiled a large list of diverse candidates before narrowing it down. Candidates “underwent an intense and thorough interview process which included psychometrics and abstract reasoning tests, in-depth discussions of strategy, coaching philosophy and the current player pool, as well as evaluation on the reactions to pressure, culture-building and interactions with players and staff,” per U.S. Soccer.
Ultimately, Crocker and the federation landed on Hayes to lead the team forward.
“Her passion for the game, her coaching acumen, her ability to galvanize players and staff, her dedication to continue to evolve as a coach and her qualities as a person are all incredibly impressive,” Crocker said. “She has a great appreciation for the legacy of this program and embraces the big challenges ahead.”
Hayes has an opportunity to bring the U.S. back to the top of the soccer world after a disappointing performance at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The USWNT was eliminated in the round of 16 — its earliest exit ever in a major tournament — after a dramatic penalty shootout against Sweden. The bitter result ended with both former coach Vlatko Andonovski and general manager Kate Markgraf stepping down.
Making Hayes’ news official this week comes on the heels of an epic weekend in women’s soccer. On Thursday, the NWSL announced a historic four-year media rights deal worth $240 million, which is the largest broadcast deal for any women’s sports league. Then on Saturday, Gotham FC won its first NWSL championship with a 2-1 win over OL Reign in front of a record crowd of 25,011 fans. The game doubled as a celebration for retiring national team legends Ali Krieger and Megan Rapinoe, though Rapinoe was forced to leave the match after sustaining a non-contact injury in the third minute.
Hayes, who grew up in London, started her coaching career in the U.S. In 2001, she coached at the youth levels in the Long Island area before coaching Division I soccer at Iona College in New York. She later returned to the UK, where she became an assistant coach for Arsenal FC.
In 2008, Hayes returned stateside to coach the Chicago Red Stars during the start of Women’s Professional Soccer. Before her first WPS season, she drafted Rapinoe with the second overall pick of the league’s inaugural draft. After a few other stints with the Washington Freedom and the New York Flash, she returned to England in 2011 and became Chelsea’s manager in 2012.
“I understand how important this team is to the people and culture of the United States, not just the soccer community,” Hayes said. “I fully understand the place this team has in U.S. society. I’ve lived it. I remember being a young coach working my way up through the system in the U.S. and watching all those young girls aspire to play on the U.S. Women’s National Team. For me, the honor in building on that legacy is part of my motivation, no question.”
Hayes is Crocker’s second appointment since he joined the USSF in April. One of his first orders of business was re-signing Berhalter to coach the USMNT through the 2026 World Cup, which he did in June.
Hayes will inherit a team in transition. Rapinoe and Julie Ertz have retired. Alex Morgan, 34, and Becky Sauerbrunn, 38, are expected to anchor the team through the Paris Olympics, but their future beyond that is unknown. There’s plenty of young talent that’s hungry to win from Sophia Smith to Trinity Rodman to Naomi Girma to Mallory Swanson, as well as Catarina Macario and Mia Fishel, both of whom Hayes currently coaches at Chelsea.
Crocker said this summer’s World Cup served as a wake-up call for the U.S. in terms of where the program was lacking when it came to technical and tactical abilities. Other nations had clearly surpassed the USWNT, which was on full display in the final between England and Spain.
“There was definitely a sense that we need to be better with the ball and have more solutions, in particular in building the attack,” Crocker told a group of reporters in October.
Now it’s on Hayes to make those necessary changes.
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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