Soccer managers wear many different hats. They must prepare training sessions, readying their teams for the rigors of a grueling season. They must incorporate tactics, design game plans, and manage the individual matches themselves. They must also manage people, and maximize the qualities of their players. Often, they are involved in the recruitment process, identifying talent and building teams. And when that’s all done, they must speak to us, the media, and talk convincingly, come victory or defeat.
It’s a difficult job, and one that hasn’t always gotten the attention it deserves in the women’s game. We at The Equalizer wanted to redress that, so we scoured the top leagues and major international competitions, and assessed every manager based on their overall achievements. What was their legacy? How many teams did they improve, or not? Did they win major silverware along the way?
The end result is this: our Top 25, the best managers — or head coaches, depending on your preferred phrasing — in women’s soccer today.
Of course, there is always a heavy dose of subjectivity when it comes to rankings like these, but we did our best to balance overall achievement with more recent form, and to avoid ‘big-team’ bias. For example, winning the Champions League is a significant accomplishment, but these days it’s a lot easier if you manage a team called Barcelona or Lyon.
Now on to Part Two: No. 15 to No. 6. Click here for part one, and stay tuned for the final installment!
15. Tony Gustavsson
After a number of jobs in the men’s game, Gustavsson went into women’s soccer with Tyreso FF in 2012. There, he won a title in a highly competitive Swedish league, and reached the Champions League final with a team featuring Marta, Vero Boquete and Christen Press. Arguably, however, his best work has been with the Australian national team. After an experimental start, Gustavsson got the Matildas playing the best possible version of Australian soccer—a game built on speed, strength and aggression. That took them past Canada, Denmark and France, into the World Cup semifinals for the first time in their history.
14. Pia Sundhage
As a coach, Sundhage’s best work has been in the United States. In 2003, she took over the Boston Breakers in the Women’s United Soccer Association (a precursor of the NWSL), improving them to win the regular season. Four years later, she was appointed head coach of the United States. Sophisticating the U.S. possession game, she became the only coach in women’s soccer history to win consecutive Olympic Gold medals. Since then, Sundhage has had mixed results, though she did lead Sweden to their first Olympic final, and Brazil to Copa America success. She is, by some distance, the most experienced coach on this list.
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