Chelsea FC manager Emma Hayes has been hired as the next United States Women's National Team manager, and her tenure will start in the spring of 2024.
Hayes, a 47-year-old from London, England, replaces Vlatko Andonovski, who was fired after the USWNT's disappointing loss to Sweden on penalties in the 2023 Women's World Cup round of 16.
Hayes has no experience as manager of an international team, but she has plenty of experience coaching at a high level.
She brought Chelsea to their women's team's first-ever Champions League final in 2020, and the Hayes-led club is on a run of four straight seasons winning England's Women's Super League. In total, she has won six Super Leagues, five Women's FA Cups, two Women's League Cups, and one Women's Community Shield.
Before Chelsea, she coached the Long Island Rough Riders in 2002 where they played in the first edition of the USL W-League. She moved on to coach Iona University's women's soccer team from 2003-2005, followed by a spell as an assistant coach at Arsenal FC from 2006-2008 and a spell as head coach of the Chicago Red Stars from 2008-2010.
In addition to the massive success she has had in over a decade managing Chelsea, Hayes has received praise for her person-to-person management.
Chelsea Women all-time leading goalscorer Fran Kirby called Hayes her "rock" for Hayes' support as Kirby dealt with the death of her mother and her own serious illness, while England legend Karen Carney - who played four years under Hayes at Chelsea - also voiced her appreciation for Hayes on a personal level.
Hayes has received two high honors for her work to advance women's soccer: She was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2016, and she was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2022.
Hayes' main skill is her ability to get the best out of her teams both on and off the pitch.
With a USWNT squad that has not played to the best of its abilities in four years under Vlatko Andonovski, getting to that level will be the minimum requirement from Hayes.
The USWNT did not win any major tournaments under Andonovski, finishing with a bronze medal in the 2020 Olympics and crashing out in the round of 16 of the 2023 Women's World Cup.
While Andonovski's players liked him as a person, his tactics often did not get the best out of his players.
Part of that issue was how his squads were caught between two generations: The older guard which features Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz, Crystal Dunn, and Kelley O'Hara, and the youth contingent including Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith, Naomi Girma, Alana Cook, and Alyssa Thompson.
Hayes has plenty of team building experience and she will need to be decisive when it comes to choosing who she wants the team's leaders to be.
Will an experienced player such as Morgan, for example, take playing time away from younger and potentially more productive players in Smith and Rodman? Would an experienced presence undermine the leadership of star midfielder Lindsey Horan?
Four players over 30 started all four of the USWNT's 2023 World Cup games: Morgan, Ertz, Dunn, and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Ertz and Rapinoe have retired, but Hayes will need to figure out if Morgan, Dunn, and Naeher have a place in the squad.
Morgan did not score or assist despite posting a team-high 3.1 expected goals in the 2023 World Cup. Andonovski's team scored just four goals in four matches (plus an extra time period) in the World Cup, and three of those were in the tournament opener against Vietnam.
The Stars and Stripes posted just 0.93 goals per 90 minutes at the World Cup, way off the likes of England (1.78), Germany (2.00), France (2.26), the Netherlands (2.26), and winners Spain (2.33). Even Panama (1.00), South Africa (1.25), and Zambia (1.00) scored more goals per match.
One of Hayes' top priorities has to be preparing the USWNT for the low-block defenses that opponents have used to stymie them recently.
Simply put, the USWNT we saw in the 2023 World Cup is a far cry from the team we saw beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the 2019 version's final.
US Soccer sees Hayes as the person to lead the team back to its former heights, and considering her time at Chelsea, the organization made a good choice.
Her first opportunity to make waves with the USWNT will be the 2024 Olympics, set to start on Friday, July 26.