Promoting 'USMNT DNA' with Jesse Marsch as coach? What to expect from new U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker

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GOAL has you covered with everything you need to know about U.S. Soccer's big hire

It appears that U.S. Soccer have their guy.

The Athletic reported over the weekend that the federation's sporting director search is nearing its conclusion, with U.S. Soccer set to hire Matt Crocker after a three-month search. Crocker will replace Earnie Stewart, who left in February to take charge at PSV Eindhoven, with USMNT general manager Brian McBride announcing his own departure at a similar time.

Those exits left the U.S. men's national team in no man's land for a bit, without leadership at the top or in the head coach position. It appears that will change soon, though, with Crocker's imminent arrival.

His most important task? Finding that next head coach as the USMNT prepare to host the 2026 World Cup and, given his history, there may already be a favorite. He isn't limited to just USMNT business, though, as Crocker's job will see him also take charge of the U.S. women's national team as well as all youth teams in the U.S. Soccer system.

With that said, GOAL has you covered with everything you need to know about U.S. Soccer's new sporting director.

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  1. The hiring process
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    The hiring process

    There have been plenty of names linked to the sporting director job since Stewart's announcement but, by and large, all have been familiar faces to American soccer fans.

    Peter Vermes, Mike Jacobs and Ernst Tanner reportedly declined overtures from the federation with regards to the roll, with all three opting to remain in club soccer. Reports indicated that there was a wariness from the trio to jump into the role with U.S. Soccer given the lesser day-to-day workload and involvement.

    Oguchi Onyewu, the former USMNT defender, was also linked with the job, having previously worked at executive level in Belgium.

    However, Crocker emerged as a stunning hire over the weekend, with U.S. Soccer instead opting to bring in an outsider to take charge of the sporting sector.

  2. Crocker's time with Southampton and England

    Crocker's time with Southampton and England

    Crocker has plenty of experience at the highest levels of the game, both in the club and international spheres.

    Most recently, Crocker has served as a key figure at Southampton as the club's director of football operations. He announced in December that he would be stepping down from his role at the end of the season, concluding his three-year stay with the club.

    This tenure marked his second stint with Southampton, with the first coming between 2006-2013 when he served as academy manager.

    In between his roles with the Premier League club, Crocker worked for the English FA, where he was responsible for developing that pathway for England's youth teams. During Crocker's time with England, the country's U-17s won the World Cup in 2017.

  3. Success with youth

    Success with youth

    The most notable successes on Crocker's resume come from his work at youth level, an area of the game in which Southampton has thrived throughout the last two decades.

    During Crocker's first tenure with the club, stars like Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and James Warde-Prowse emerged from the academy, with the first three all departing the club for massive transfer fees.

    His role with England also had a focus on youth, with many of England's key contributors from last year's World Cup rising through the different age brackets during Crocker's time with the FA.

    During his most recent stint with Southampton, Crocker worked alongside former manager Ralph Hasenhuttl to develop 'the SFC playbook' - a resource the club uses to link together training sessions between the first-team and the academy to improve the pathway for young players. The aim was to standardize the club from top to bottom, giving young players similar preparation to those at first-team level.

  4. Experience in the women's game

    Experience in the women's game

    While the majority of Crocker's work has come in the men's game, he has also found success with his work on the women's side.

    During his recent stint with Southampton, Crocker put together a five-year plan for the women's side. The team was only revived in 2016 and, at the time of Crocker's arrival, Southampton were very much working their way up through the lower tiers.

    And, while the success of the women's program is by no means all due to Crocker, Southampton have been promoted twice during his tenure, earning a spot in the Championship - the country's second division. Notably, the women's team also turned fully professional ahead of the 2022-23 season, with all of the club's home games played at St. Mary's.

    In his new U.S. Soccer sporting director role, Crocker will be in charge of both the USMNT and USWNT, making his work with the women's game just as vital as his work with the men's. And, with the World Cup looming, there's a chance Crocker could have some big decisions to make depending on how the USWNT perform at this summer's tournament.

  5. Crocker's new checklist
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    Crocker's new checklist

    Crocker's first order of business as new sporting director is very, very clear: find a new USMNT head coach.

    That process has been held up, essentially, since the World Cup, with the federation deciding to appoint a sporting director before appointing a head coach. The hiring process would be left to whoever was brought in to replace Stewart and, after several months of waiting, we now know who that is.

    Anthony Hudson has served admirably as interim coach, helping keep some sort of momentum going after the World Cup. However, it's time for a more permanent direction, with the 2026 tournament now just three years away from kicking off.

    Crocker will spearhead the search to find a new USMNT coach, which will give him a chance to make an immediate mark with a federation-defining hire. He can go any number of ways with the hire, with the job a fairly attractive one given the amount of young talent in the pool and the upcoming World Cup on home soil. With Crocker now involved, the process can truly begin and candidates can officially be sorted through by decision-makers.

    However, Crocker's role isn't just limited to the men's game. When it comes to the USWNT, he will work alongside general manager Kate Markgraf to determine the direction of that program, although there likely won't be much for Crocker to do until after the World Cup this summer.

    As part of his new role, Crocker will be in charge of every facet of the national team program, including all 27 senior and youth teams. That means that he will also play a key role in the talent development side of the business, making his experiences with Southampton and England all the more valuable as the U.S. continues to refine its youth systems.

  6. The Marsch connection
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    The Marsch connection

    Perhaps the most interesting thing about Crocker's hire is that, upon his arrival, there is now something of a favorite for the USMNT job.

    Following Nathan Jones' dismissal in February, Southampton interviewed Jesse Marsch - who had himself been recently let go by Leeds. Southampton were said to be very interested in Marsch and ultimately offered him the job, with the American reportedly turning down the offer at the final hurdle.

    Crocker was part of the hiring process that had landed on Marsch, meaning there is some level of familiarity between the two. Marsch has, for months, been among the favorites for the USMNT job, and Crocker's arrival only adds further intrigue when it comes to his future.

    In the months since talks broke down with Southampton, Marsch also held talks with Leicester, only to, once again, pull out at the last minute. His decisions could prove wise, with both clubs potentially staring down relegation this season.

    But could Marsch's decision to pass on those jobs lead him to the USMNT? Does the impression Marsch made on Crocker and Southampton now extend to the newly-appointed sporting director's new role?

    We'll find out. The coaching search will surely be exhaustive and thorough but, given what we know, it is safe to say that Marsch is very much in the mix.