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Which MLS manager is the next to head to Europe?

You might have noticed yesterday that Jesse Marsch is no longer the manager of Leeds United. Yes, I’m sure he’s interested in your MLS/national team in need of a coach and that your MLS/national team in need of a coach is by far the most worthy option. Red Bulls fans in particular can tell you why that’s a good thing. But for now, we’ll let Marsch take his time and pick out his next gig before we stress about where he might end up.

Until then, let’s think about the next Jesse Marsch. Or maybe the next Patrick Vieira. Let’s think about which MLS manager might be the next to make a jump or start on the path toward a major European league or national team. Maybe, just maybe, we can learn which managers we should appreciate in MLS while we can.

Important note here: We’re focusing mostly on who should be considered instead of who could. I think there’s a lot of crossover here, but just wanted to make the distinction before I got 50 DMs about being an MLS shill. Basically, the criteria here involves a mix of having a clear tactical identity, a clear track record of success, a game model that can work beyond MLS, and the willingness to make that kind of move. Like, Brian Schmetzer isn’t going anywhere, y’all. We’ll start with (in no particular order)...

Wilfried Nancy

It’s no secret how much we appreciate Wilfried Nancy here at The Daily Kickoff, the world’s first and only soccer newsletter. It’s slightly more of a secret that other coaches seem to think Wilfried Nancy is real dang good at this too. I’ll never forget the… uh… curmudgeonly Gabriel Heinze going out of his way to compliment Nancy during Heinze’s limited time in the league. And Heinze hasn’t been the only one to think as much about Nancy’s game model and ability to adjust his tactics to his opponents.

Nancy is 45 years old and beginning his second managerial job this year. If he succeeds quickly in Columbus (and I think he will), it wouldn’t be surprising to see other teams start to swoop in. A return to France in particular seems to make sense as a starting point for Nancy’s European journey. From there, who knows.

Jim Curtin

Few head coaches in MLS could be considered more deserving for consideration to follow in Marsch’s footsteps. I’d guess that Curtin wants to get the Union their first non-Shield trophy before moving on. When that happens though, and he’s ready to leave the club he’s led for over 300 games, the 43-year-old two-time MLS Coach of the Year will have earned consideration from jobs in Europe and… [checks over both shoulders for USMNT Twitter]... from any potential open positions leading the USMNT.

He’s even said as much. Curtin, who’s out of contract this season, straight up told Oguchi Onyewu and DaMarcus Beasley’s podcast he would leave Philadelphia for a USMNT assistant job. He doesn’t even need to be in charge to make a jump.

I kind of wish he was aiming higher to be honest. He’s good at this. His game model out of the 4-4-2 diamond is clear and has even undergone steady tweaks over the years. Last year gave us the most direct version of the Curtin Union yet and nearly gave the Union their first MLS Cup. Hopefully he’ll either get a shot at being a part of the national team or leading a major club or two in his career. Like Nancy (and everyone else on this list) he has plenty of time to continue to grow as a manager before that happens.

Wayne Rooney/Phil Neville

Future Everton managers.

Josh Wolff

Now, not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, we should note, for the roughly 5,784,327th time that Austin outperformed their xG by just a teency, little, near-historic amount last season. That said, Los Verdes have had a tactical identity since day one under Wolff. Their year-two bump last season came as no surprise.

Like Curtin, Wolff is 45 years old. Unlike Curtin, Wolff has 52 USMNT caps and a short stint in Germany under his belt. He may have a few more connections and, fairly or not, a little more benefit of the doubt when it comes to how teams abroad perceive him. If Austin continue to succeed beyond their small-market stature and means as a club, then Wolff could take a chance on moving up the ladder sometime in the near future.

Steve Cherundolo

I’ll be honest, it’s hard to get a gauge on Cherundolo. Maybe I’m cheating a bit here. LAFC were so good last year and had so many excellent players that I guess it’s difficult to know how much of their success came from Cherundolo. In the end though, it’s unfair to say that he did anything other than take what he was given and succeed. That’s all you can ask, right? Not every coach does that.

Good and bad news for him. This year is a bigger test. It’s tough to keep teams wanting more after a title-winning season and, as of now, LAFC are thinner in key positions. If Cherundolo can put together another outstanding season in LA and maybe grab a CCL or second-straight MLS title, then other clubs may start circling.

He’s only in his second year as a first-division manager, however he’s already had stints as an assistant at Hannover 96 and VfB Stuttgart in Germany. A Bundesliga or Bundesliga-adjacent team could be a clear starting point in Europe for the 43-year-old.

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