During the Continental Clasico earlier this month, U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone announced that the search for a new sporting director would be coming to an end soon. The wait seems to be almost over as The Atheltic has reported that U.S. Soccer will be hiring Southampton director of football operations Matt Crocker. It was announced in December that Crocker would be leaving the club at the end of the 2022-23 season and that would line up with him arriving ahead of the Nations League semifinals and Gold Cup during a busy summer.
Crocker was also involved with interviewing potential United States managerial candidate Jesse Marsch for Southampton’s opening during the winter. While Marsch did remove himself from consideration for the role, the U.S. sporting director and usmnt manager work closely together, which could boost Marsch’s case for the national team role.
U.S. Soccer has been without a sporting director since February when Earnie Stewart joined PSV as their director of football but ahead of these critical summer tournaments, someone needs to fill the role so that the search for a head coach can take place. The sporting director will be in charge of overseeing the men’s, women’s and youth programs but these are also things that fell under Crocker during his time with Southampton.
Here’s what to know:
What to know about Crocker
Crocker has had a few spells with Southampton, first as their academy manager from 2006-2013 before returning in 2020 to oversee the club’s sporting direction. During his time away from the club, Crocker was head of development with the English FA. Under Crocker, the academy saw Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Callum Chambers, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, and James Ward-Prowse make their breakthroughs. Crocker also converted the club’s U-23 side into a B team to ensure that it closely follows the methods that are used in the first team. He, along with then-manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, also believed that young players with potential should be kept with the club instead of being loaned out to ensure that they received similar tactical development to the first-team players.
In a national team setup, these views are even more important as you never know when a 20-year-old will need to be called into the senior setup. With Concacaf featuring so many competitions, fringe players get a lot of time in senior camp where consistency matters so they don’t feel out of place. Despite Southampton’s likely relegation from the Premier League, that doesn’t take away the good that Crocker has done with the academy and that can translate to ensuring that the United States’ budding pipeline of young talent can get the best support possible.
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When will he be hired?
On Tuesday, it seems. USSF announced on Monday that they would be making the announcement on Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET.
What does this mean for the coaching search?
While the coaching search has been going on without a sporting director, the person hired for this role will ultimately be responsible for selecting and working with the new USMNT head coach. Even if that coach isn’t Marsch, Crocker also worked closely with Hasenhuttl who is known for pressing and youth development, two things that would suit the national team. Following that blueprint in the coaching search can ensure that the team has success at the 2026 World Cup while not sacrificing the long-term view for the team and federation at the same time. Relegation isn’t something that you’d like to see on Crocker’s record but looking at his overall resume, he understands the big picture of the global game and that’s what the United States needs to move into the next phase of their development.
Gregg Berhalter did a good job establishing expectations for how the team should perform and getting them back to consistently contending for trophies but the next coach will be expected to elevate the squad into consistently being among the top 15 in the world. Some of that expectation is on the coach, but the sporting director’s vision will play a critical part.