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Kate Markgraf hired as first general manager of USWNT

Former United States defender Kate Markgraf is the first general manager of the U.S. women’s national team, U.S. Soccer announced on Monday. Yahoo! Sports first reported the news on Monday after The Washington Post indicated two weeks ago, corroborated by The Equalizer, that Markgraf was the front-runner.

Markgraf’s first task will be to find a new coach for the team. U.S. head coach Jill Ellis will be stepping down upon the conclusion of the U.S.’ World Cup victory tour. Ellis won two World Cups in her five years in charge.

Additionally, Earnie Stewart was promoted from men’s general manager — a newly-created position he assumed about a year ago — to “sporting director,” a position which U.S. Soccer said in a press release “will oversee U.S. Soccer’s entire sports performance department, including the men’s and women’s senior and youth national team programs, to create a more streamlined structure, align the overall technical approach and ensure greater communication and sharing of best practices within federation programs.”

Highly divisive, Jill Ellis largely got it right

Stewart will report to U.S. Soccer’s CEO, who is expected to be named soon. Markgraf will report to Stewart; a search is underway for a new men’s national team general manager. Stewart will oversee the talent identification, high performance and analytics departments.

Markgraf appeared for the U.S. 201 times, scoring once and winning the 1999 World Cup as a starting defender and winning Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008. She retired in 2010 and has been a broadcaster since, working in various capacities for ESPN, Fox and NBC covering men’s and women’s soccer. Markgraf most recently covered the 2019 World Cup for ESPN.

“This new role presents some big challenges, but all are exciting, important to the future of the game and certainly energizing,” said Markgraf. “I’m honored to come back to an organization and program that I love, one which helped mold me as a player and person, and to contribute to its continued growth. To reach the top of the world is difficult enough, but to stay there takes a tremendous amount of hard work by players, coaches, staff and administrators, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with those inside and outside of U.S. Soccer to make that happen.”

Markgraf was part of the August 3 ESPN broadcast of the U.S.’ first victory-tour game, against Ireland — a game which came after initial reports emerged linking her to the general manager job. Asked about the reports by colleague Sebastian Salazar, Markgraf said: “Who wouldn’t be interested in that position?” Earlier that week, Markgraf appeared on ESPN FC and named potential replacements for Ellis. Markgraf named Laura Harvey, Paul Riley, Vlatko Andonovski and Mark Krikorian as coaches to watch.

The hiring process for the women’s national team general manager role took over a year. U.S. Soccer initially thought it would name a hire in early 2019, but that was delayed in large part due to the awkward timing it would present, with the World Cup looming. U.S. Soccer vice president Cindy Parlow-Cone led the selection process, which was approved by U.S. Soccer’s board of directors.

Markgraf will have significant say in who the next head coach is, and that person will need to fall in line with her overall vision for the program’s style of play, which is listed as one of the GM’s primary tasks.

Three things Jill Ellis’ successor must immediately get right

U.S. Soccer on Monday listed an updated description of Markgraf’s tasks:

  • Manage, hire and develop senior and youth women’s national team coaches, technical and administrative staffs to maximize potential
  • Create, implement, and manage a technical plan for the women’s national teams at all ages to meet specific, agreed upon milestones and metrics
  • Create, implement, and monitor performance standards for the women’s national teams at all ages
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