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Ellis named full-time US women’s NT coach

Jill Ellis has been named the full-time coach of the U.S. women's national team. (Photo Copyright Harjeet Johal for The Equalizer)

Jill Ellis has been named the new head coach of the United States women’s national team, U.S. Soccer announced on Friday.

Ellis, 47, takes over the role full-time after serving as interim head coach following Tom Sermanni’s firing on April 6. Ellis is 6-0-3 in two stints as interim coach following last week’s 1-1 draw with Canada. Her first matches in charge as full-time manager will be a pair of mid-June friendlies against France.

U.S. Soccer selected Ellis over Tyresö coach Tony Gustavsson as well as Tony DiCicco, who managed the U.S. from 1994-99 and guided them to their last World Cup title in ’99.

The search for a U.S. head coach was much smaller this time with World Cup qualifying just five months away and the tournament proper in 13 months in Canada. In 2012, six finalists made the interviewing process. This time, it was only three. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, CEO Dan Flynn and technical director April Heinrich served as the search committee.

Ellis pulled her name out of contention for the job in 2012, saying the timing wasn’t right for her, but this time it is.

“Jill has been on the bench for more senior and youth women’s national team matches than perhaps any coach in United States history,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. “She has worked at this for many years and has tremendous knowledge of our player pool and the qualities of multiple generations of players.

“We are confident she is the best person to find the right combinations on the field to make us successful in World Cup qualifying and beyond. She has experienced first-hand the growth of women’s soccer worldwide and is uniquely positioned to lead our team to an even higher level.”

[Kassouf: Ellis unfazed by World Cup title pressure |  Balancing ‘win now’ with development]

Ellis’ first major task will be getting the U.S. to qualify for the 2015 World Cup. U.S. Soccer announced on Friday that the qualifying tournament originally scheduled for Oct. 16-26 in Mexico has been moved to the United States. No further details were provided.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo backed the Portsmouth, England, native, saying she “would love to see her on board” and that the team is “very comfortable” with Ellis, when asked last month. Solo doubled down on those sentiments prior to last week’s USA-Canada match, with midfielder Carli Lloyd also saying Ellis “would be great for the job.”

In 12 years as coach of UCLA, Ellis led the Bruins to eight College Cup appearances but never won a national championship. The U.S. finished a disappointing fifth at the 2010 U-20 World Cup after losing to Nigeria on penalty kicks in the quarterfinal stage. She has served as the development director for all U.S. women’s national teams since January 2011, and assisted Pia Sundhage in 2008 and 2012. Ellis will step down from her post as development director, but will still work closely with U.S. Soccer women’s technical director April Heirichs regarding youth programs.

“First, I would like to sincerely thank U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati and U.S. Soccer Secretary General/CEO Dan Flynn for this amazing opportunity. It’s a huge honor,” Ellis said. “I also want to acknowledge all the past players and coaches that have built a rich tradition and legacy for this team. I’m humbled and proud to lead the current generation of players toward the ultimate goal, a FIFA World Cup championship. Finally, I want to thank my father who ignited my passion for this game and who inspired me to be a coach.”

Including Ellis, the U.S. has had eight full-time since its 1985 inception. Greg Ryan (2005-07) remains the winningest coach with a .900 win percentage, one percentage point above DiCicco and three percentage points greater than Sundhage (2008-12). Lauren Gregg coached only three games as an interim coach in 2000.

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