Tenorio: US Soccer trimming list for GM role, hire to come before World Cup

Carlos Bocanegra - Atlanta United

MARIETTA, Ga. – U.S. Soccer is in the process of narrowing down its list of candidates for the newly-created general manager position for the US men’s national team.

The number of people interviewed for the role is in the double digits. U.S. Soccer is in the process of trimming that list down and identifying the finalists for the position, spokesman Neil Buethe told MLSsoccer.com.

Those finalists will be brought in for a last round of interviews. The hope is for the general manager to be hired ahead of the World Cup, which begins on June 14, Buethe said.

The general manager positions for the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams were approved by U.S. Soccer’s board of directors last December. The person hired for the men’s role will immediately face a critical task: leading the search for the USMNT's next coach. Dave Sarachan has served as the interim manager since Bruce Arena stepped down last year after the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Atlanta United vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra is part of the search committee, which also includes U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn and fellow board member Angela Hucles, among others. The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors, led by new president Carlos Cordeiro, will need to approve any hire. Bocanegra called the upcoming hires, both the general manager and next men’s national team head coach, “a big step for us.”

“It’s not a crossroads, but it’s a big step for us because it’s a big opportunity for us to start that next movement,” Bocanegra told MLSsoccer.com. “They are critical hires. It’s been a long process, I can tell you that. A long process, time-consuming, but it’s been really good. It’s been rigorous and in-depth and detailed, and really vetting and trying to make sure we get this right. And then the next stage is to bring in the coach that fits that style of play and that vision we would like to go forward with as U.S. Soccer and kind of take us to that next level as a footballing country.”

Bocanegra was part of the Athlete’s Council that played a key role in the U.S. Soccer presidential election in February. The current Atlanta United executive was clearly passionate about what he sees as the path ahead for U.S. Soccer in the wake of the devastating results in World Cup qualifying. The U.S. will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

The former center back said he wants to get to a point where the U.S. style advances beyond just “grinding out” results and begins to “push the envelope” more. He called Christian Pulisic a “legitimate superstar” and pointed to examples like Tyler Adams and Kellyn Acosta as example of the younger players coming through the MLS development pipeline that represent “a good little player pool” that can help U.S. Soccer recover from an otherwise massive setback.

Bocanegra pointed to Atlanta’s academy and the efforts to create high-performance environments at the academy level to produce young players capable of breaking through into the first team and international stage at younger ages.

“We’re using this now as an opportunity,” he said. “We didn’t want to get to this stage where we missed the World Cup, because everyone would love to be there. But we have to use this now as an opportunity to really self-reflect. What are we doing that’s not working very well? What are we doing that’s going okay but we can improve? And then how are we going to get there? Because now we need to make some changes. We need to really dig in deep and evaluate: Where are we? Let’s have a hard look at ourselves.”