This weekend, it was reported that former Everton, Manchester United, and West Ham United manager David Moyes is a leading candidate to become the new head coach of the United States Men’s National Team. While the Scot has had success coaching in the Premier League, he noticeably has no experience coaching a national team, and that could be a problem.
Coaching a national team and a club team are two very different jobs. With a club team, you have your squad day in and day out, all season long. You work firsthand with players and develop as the season progresses. That’s not the case with a national team. Coaches only get a few weeks a year with most of the players and the squad can change drastically throughout the year depending on player form, injuries, and whether players are released by their club teams.
From an American prospective, it’s a lot like coaching college football and professional football. A college football coach has to recruit and fundraise while a professional coach is simply a football coach, with others handling the acquisition of players. This is why it’s rare to see a successful college coach succeed in the NFL or a successful NFL coach succeed in college.
No matter what country you’re in, coaching a national team provides different challenges than coaching a club team. But there are additional challenges coaching the United States. One of those challenges is that players are spread throughout the world. In England, for example, almost all of the players that play for the national team play in the domestic Premier League. The coach of the English national team is no more than a five-hour car ride from seeing any player in the player pool in person.
For the United States, players are spread throughout the world. Sure, there are many players that ply their trade in Major League Soccer, but key players that are certain to be part of the national team setup for years to come play in different European countries. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Josh Sargent play in Germany. Tim Weah plays in France. Matt Miazga currently plays in Holland on loan but may soon be playing in England. Whoever becomes the national team coach must know how to follow all of these players and make evaluations on their current form, despite them playing all around the world.
This is not to say that Moyes may not be a very good national team coach. Two of the most successful coaches in U.S. history were Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley. Neither had coached a national team before taking the reins for the United States and led the team to the most success it’s had. But the United States is going through an important rebuild at the moment and having a coach with national team experience, who knows how to handle a young national team, is crucial.
The upcoming selection of the USMNT coach is the most important choice in many years. The failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup signaled a change in the team where there will be few, if any, veterans. With such a young team moving forward, the U.S. cannot afford coaching changes so the coach selected now needs to be the boss heading into the 2022 FIFA World Cup. For this reason, it’s important that the U.S. makes a safer choice and brings in someone with national team experience.