Eight months after the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup, U.S. Soccer took its first concrete step toward rebuilding the program by hiring the former national team midfielder Earnie Stewart as the team’s general manager.
The longtime U.S. Soccer assistant Dave Sarachan has been running the team since the departure of Bruce Arena, who quit days after the team’s loss at Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10 confirmed that the United States would miss this summer’s World Cup in Russia. It is the first time the U.S. team has not participated in soccer’s biggest event since 1986.
Creating the general manager position was one of a handful of changes the federation approved in December after a contentious presidential election campaign that raised divisive questions about whether U.S. Soccer had lost focus over the past decade as it grew into a $100 million business.
In his new role, Stewart will have broad oversight over nearly every facet of the men’s national team, including: overseeing the hiring process for the national team coach and making a recommendation to U.S. Soccer’s board; consulting with the head coach and youth national team coaches to formulate a style of play for the national teams; and scouting, player pool management and the selection of players for each camp roster. (U.S. Soccer has created a similar position for the women’s national team program; it has not been filled.)
“With his breadth of experience as both a player and a technical director, Earnie is the ideal leader to guide the long-term success of our men’s national team program,” U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said in a statement. “Combined with the structural changes at the federation that we announced in April, this is a further step in our commitment to ensure that soccer operations are run by soccer experts.”
What no one can predict now is what will happen when Stewart and the head coach he hires have a disagreement over player selection or style of play.
Stewart, the son of a U.S. Air Force airman and a Dutch mother, grew up in the Netherlands and was a successful professional player there when he committed to play for the United States in the months after the 1990 World Cup. Stewart, 49, played more than 100 games for the United States and appeared in three World Cups. He was elected to U.S. Soccer’s hall of fame in 2011.
After retiring as a player in 2005, Stewart moved into management, first at clubs in his native Netherlands and for the past three years with the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer. The team has had a losing record each of the past three seasons. He will begin his new role with U.S. Soccer on Aug. 1.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.