Eleven current or former MLS head coaches were among the graduating class of US Soccer's first-ever Pro License Coaching Course, a year-long pilot project that concluded in Chicago over the weekend.
Current MLS bosses Gregg Berhalter, Jeff Cassar, Jim Curtin, Jason Kreis, Pablo Mastroeni, Ben Olsen, Oscar Pareja and Peter Vermes took part in the course, along with John Hackworth, Omid Namazi, Tab Ramos, Sigi Schmid and Richie Williams.
The federation considers this "Pro Course" to be the highest form of coaching licensing offered in North America, comprising a new rung on the education ladder above the US Soccer A license, and intended to “complete the pathway from the grassroots to professional coaching.”
Each coach was asked to create and execute a custom, individualized plan based on their needs, while the wider group set new standards for the next generation of coaches. With topics ranging from leadership philosophies to tactical periodization, the course was delivered over the past 12 months via in-person instruction, club visits, final assessments, webinars and expert guest speakers like Jurgen Klinsmann, authors Daniel Coyle and Doug Lemov, Sunderland AFC manager David Moyes, fitness specialist John Cone and many others.
“It’s a great privilege being part of this pioneering group,” Pareja told ussoccer.com. “I would tell the next group of candidates that this is a great step in your coaching education. The methodology is different. There is an evolution in the course as well towards the challenges that we face every day with our competition, development and management. All of these areas are covered in a way that is based on the experiences that we have and develops our identity, which is something that, in my opinion, was the highlight.”
US Soccer’s Director of Coaching Education Nico Romeijn and National Coach Educator Wim van Zwam oversaw the process, which they consider a new milestone for aspiring coaches with ambitions of working at the professional level.
“This continuation and advancement in coaching education aligns with the long-term objective of U.S. Soccer, which is to develop world-class players, coaches, and referees,” van Zwam said. “There is a large shift in our mentality and what we are emphasizing at a federation level is to help improve the level of our coaches who, in return, create better players.”
The next class of coaches to take part in the Pro License program will begin in January. According to the federation, the new license will eventually become mandatory for coaches in each of the four current professional soccer leagues recognized by USSF: MLS, NASL, USL and NWSL.
“This is a great initiative and it is pretty special to be the first group,” Vermes said. “We realized quickly that we are all doing the same thing and we all have the same challenges. The course itself, the lectures and the guest speakers were phenomenal. Going through a course like this, with ideas around leadership and problem solving, was very good. In the end, the better our coaches are, the better we are going to be at developing players.”