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USMNT in turmoil: Reyna revelations leave reputation of America’s favorite soccer family in ruins

00:27 GMT+3 05/01/2023
Claudio Gio Reyna Berhalter GFX
What was once a World Cup feud about on-field friction has now become a tale of betrayal, friendship and, ultimately, heartbreak

The Reyna family, one of the most beloved in American soccer, dug up 30 years of trauma and grief because U.S. men's national team head coach Gregg Berhalter didn't play their son enough at the World Cup.

Does that just about sum it up? Can one even grasp the absolute lunacy of that sentence and, ultimately, the fallout that will come because of it?

The U.S. men's national team is now in total turmoil on their road to the 2026 World Cup as a feud between coach and player took an unprecedented turn. It's no longer a discussion about playing time or attitude. This has, instead, turned into something much bigger: a Shakespearean tale of friendship, betrayal, subterfuge and heartbreak between American soccer legends.

Those legends, Claudio Reyna and Berhalter, will now see their entire legacies defined by what has gone on over the last few weeks. The Reynas' son, USMNT star Gio, will now face an uncertain national team future thanks to the actions of both himself and his parents.

Berhalter's tenure as USMNT coach, if it wasn't already, is almost certainly over. And U.S. Soccer, an organization that is supposed to be building towards a momentous 2026 World Cup, now has to navigate a crisis unlike anything seen here.

What a mess this is.

To understand it all, you have to go back to the beginning. No, not Qatar, but rather North Carolina 30 years ago. It was there that Berhalter met his wife Rosalind, the biggest victim in this whole saga.

Rosalind Berhalter has seen 30 years of trauma dragged up in the public by a couple that, for years, she surely considered friends.

As Gregg Berhalter detailed in his own statement this week, he kicked his wife during a domestic dispute when he was 18 years old in 1991. Danielle Reyna brought up that previously unknown incident to U.S. Soccer last month in apparent retaliation for how her son was treated in Qatar. U.S. Soccer is currently investigating him.

Gregg Berhalter said he had long ago worked through the matter with his wife, including through the use of counseling. He called his prior actions "shameful" - as they most certainly were - but all indications are that the family chose to move forward decades ago.

The Berhalters and Reynas have been intertwined since even before those days in North Carolina, where Rosalind Berhalter roomed with Danielle Reyna, the future USWNT midfielder, at the time of the violent incident.

Gregg Berhalter and Claudio Reyna grew up together in New Jersey, with the latter serving as best man at Gregg's wedding. They've also played big parts in the each other's son's careers, with Sebastian Berhalter previously playing at Austin FC, where Claudio Reyna is sporting director, while Gio Reyna, obviously, played under Gregg Berhalter with the USMNT.

To call these families close is an understatement.

That's all in tatters now. Thirty years of friendship down the drain simply because Berhalter didn't give Gio Reyna enough minutes in Qatar and subsequently explained why in a public forum.

The latter part of that was wrong, of course, but did it really deserve the Reynas' efforts to discredit the Berhalters with what they would surely say is the worst moment of their lives?

The feud began in December, when Berhalter publicly stated that one of his players was punished for a lack of effort and bad attitude. Reporting soon revealed that player to be Reyna, who fired back at Berhalter for going public while admitting that, at least initially, his emotions had gotten the better of him when told he wouldn't play a big part in Qatar.

Widespread reports have detailed that the Reynas, unhappy with Berhalter's treatment of their son both during and after the World Cup, then dug up the 30-year-old incident to Earnie Stewart, U.S. Soccer's sporting director.

Danielle Reyna confirmed to The Athletic that she'd spoken to Stewart and told him about the incident, but denied that she was looking to blackmail Berhalter. Instead, she said, she was appealing to Stewart to tell Berhalter to stop the comments about her son, with the ex-USWNT midfielder using the domestic violence incident as a mistake from Berhalter's own past that was given grace.

Upon hearing that, Stewart asked U.S. Soccer to sanction an independent investigation as the federation had a responsibility to assess the accusations.

Claudio, in a separate statement, denied ever threatening anyone with the information, although ESPN has reported that the former USMNT midfielder texted several U.S. Soccer executives threatening to go public.

No matter their intentions, and they can claim that this was all meant to be off the record, the Reynas come out of this mess looking horrendous. Whether they want to acknowledge it or not, they dug up a traumatic moment against one of their longtime friends in response to their son's World Cup experience. Any way you spin that, it looks bad.

This revelation wasn't about Berhalter's character or some fight against domestic violence and, if it was, it would have been brought up at some point during his tenure. And this also certainly wasn't about the welfare of Rosalind Berhalter, who has seen decades-old trauma vault her name into national news because of a coaching decision she had nothing to do with.

Instead, this was about a World Cup, something that, despite being so big, seems so trivial.

What a disaster this is for the Reynas, who many saw as one of the first families of American soccer. A Hall of Fame father, a USWNT star mother and a son that looked destined to be among the best players American soccer ever produced. Now, this will always be a part of their story, overshadowing some incredible moments and contributions made throughout their lives. This decision, this very bad decision, has opened up Pandora's Box.

There's no turning back from this. Not for the Reynas, Berhalters, U.S. Soccer or anyone else involved.

Gregg Berhalter's USMNT future remains uncertain, but it's hard to see him coming back to an environment that has grown so toxic. Clubs in Europe were left impressed by him at the World Cup, although it remains to be seen what impact this will have on his coaching prospects. His decision to break the code of silence to essentially air out Gio Reyna's immaturity led to this, even if it was the Reynas that took things way, way too far.

Claudio Reyna's future is also unclear. Is the stain of this enough to impact his job with Austin FC? It's too soon to tell, but it will certainly be a major part of a legacy that, until this week, was virtually unblemished. His reputation has always centered around him being one of the best players the U.S. has ever seen; now it's about a father that ruined a lifelong friendship with behavior that you expect from an overbearing youth soccer parent, not a USMNT icon.

And, as for Gio, there were already doubts about his relationship with his teammates. Some reports said that those around the U.S. team were less than impressed with his attitude. For a young player, it certainly doesn't look good that his mom and dad stepped in to complain about playing time, especially given the accountability stressed by those that make up the USMNT's core. He may have had nothing to do with it, and no son should suffer punishment for the behavior of their parents, but, fairly or unfairly, his name is connected with this disaster too.

It will take a while to sort through this mess and, aside from Rosalind Berhalter, all involved come out looking worse.

Just days into the 2026 World Cup cycle, American soccer is in a state of chaos and one of American soccer's most beloved families finds its reputation ruined, perhaps beyond repair.