US coach Berhalter fired after Copa flop - report

United States coach Gregg Berhalter has been dismissed following his team's first round exit at the Copa America (Hector Vivas)
United States coach Gregg Berhalter has been dismissed following his team's first round exit at the Copa America (Hector Vivas)

United States coach Gregg Berhalter has been fired following his team's disastrous first-round exit at the Copa America, it was reported on Wednesday.

Fox Sports reported that the 50-year-old US coach, who was only brought back to manage the team last year, had been dismissed in the wake of the Copa exit.

The United States Soccer Federation did not immediately confirm the report.

The USA were eliminated from the Copa America in the group stage after defeats to Panama and Uruguay following an opening win over Bolivia.

That early exit -- the first time in history a Copa America host nation has been eliminated in the first round -- triggered widespread calls from former players, pundits and fans for Berhalter to be dismissed.

The sacking comes just two years before the United States co-hosts the World Cup with Canada and Mexico in 2026, a tournament which is viewed in the US as a golden opportunity to widen soccer's appeal.

Berhalter however had faced relentless scepticism since he was first appointed as US coach six years ago in the wake of the team's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Although he enjoyed respectable results in regional competitions -- winning the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League in 2021 before adding the Gold Cup in the same year -- his results against top tier nations remained poor.

He helped the team qualify for the 2022 World Cup, where they were eliminated in the knockout rounds by the Netherlands after emerging from a first phase group that included England, Wales and Iran.

However his future as US coach was plunged into uncertainty in the wake of the Qatar World Cup, when an ugly feud with the family of midfielder Gio Reyna exploded into public view.

Berhalter's contract, which expired in December 2022, was not automatically renewed.

The United States Soccer Federation meanwhile conducted an investigation into a 1992 allegation of domestic violence by Berhalter against his then girlfriend, now wife.

He was subsequently cleared and then, following a much-touted global search for coaching candidates, reappointed to his old job in June 2023.

That decision was widely viewed as unimaginative and underwhelming by swathes of US fans, who have consistently demanded Berhalter be replaced.

The pressure on the US coach was amplified by the team's failure to mount a serious challenge at the Copa America, while at the same time, another American coach, Jesse Marsch, took Canada to the semi-finals.

Berhalter meanwhile had insisted he was the right man to lead the US at the 2026 World Cup following last week's Copa demise while admitting performances at the tournament had not been good enough.

"I think collectively the staff, the players, the sporting department, we need to look at where do we improve? How do we do better?" Berhalter said.

"It's not the aspirations that we have as a group. We know it's a talented team with big potential and we didn't show it in this tournament."