Being tasked with hiring the next head coach of the two-time defending World Cup champions, especially as a first order of business, isn’t exactly easing into a new job. Compared to the challenges which lie ahead, however, that might have been the easy part for new United States women’s national team general manager Kate Markgraf.
A World Cup and Olympic gold medal-winning player herself during the 1990s and 2000s, Markgraf is the person in charge of sustaining the long-term dominance of a U.S. program which has won four of the eight senior World Cups and four of the six Olympic gold medals in the sport.
Hiring a new head coach was step one in shaping that vision, and Markgraf’s thorough approach, combined with new head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s resume, made Andonovski’s selection feel inevitable as the process progressed.
Next, Markgraf must align the senior team with the youth national teams. How does a United States national team look when it plays? And can that answer be consistent no matter the age of the team playing?
“We need to continue to evolve,” Markgraf tells The Equalizer, “because we can’t be the same team we were in 2019 and win. I thought that was the best U.S. team I’d ever seen. Better than our ’99 team. I can’t say that I’ve said that about any team definitively since I played. I thought that 2019 was the best I’ve ever seen at any position.” She adds one concession: nobody can replace Michelle Akers.
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