Investigation finds Gio Reyna's family engaged in embarrassing campaign to support USMNT star long before 2022 World Cup - but blackmail allegation struck down
An independent investigation into former United States men's national team manager Gregg Berhalter's history of domestic violence expanded to also probe Gio Reyna's family for how they brought attention to a 1990s incident involving Berhalter and his wife.
The findings, published Monday by Alston & Bird, found the Reyna family consistently pestered U.S. Soccer about USMNT and Borussia Dortmund star Gio since at least 2016, trying to get him more playing time and other advantages. Gio's father, Claudio Reyna, is a former USMNT player and has held MLS club leadership roles in recent years, including at Austin FC, where he recently resigned from his position as director.
However, allegations of blackmail first suggested by Berhalter were not substantiated by the report.
What did the report reveal about the Reyna family?
Key findings include:
- Claudio Reyna routinely reached out to U.S. Soccer to complain about how his son was treated
- Complained about female referees
- Family also complained to U.S. Soccer when Gio was benched at World Cup
- Gio's mother told U.S. Soccer about Berhalter's domestic violence incident so the USMNT wouldn't extend his contract, an attempt at payback for Gio's reduced playing time in Qatar
- But disclosure did not amount to blackmail
How the Reyna family meddled in U.S. Soccer affairs before 2022 World Cup
There are numerous, specific incidents in which the Reyna family was found to have reached out to U.S. Soccer about Gio, dating back to 2016, in a way that was not considered normal for the parents of a national team prospect.
"As background, investigation witnesses described a pattern of periodic outreach by Mr. Reyna to U.S. Soccer officials and staff from in or around 2016 through the end of 2022, the purpose of which was to convey certain complaints and comments about U.S. Soccer’s treatment of his children," read a passage in the report.
Specific incidents in the report include Claudio Reyna asking for a red card against his son to be overturned in 2016, complaining about a female referee overseeing a match involving Gio in 2018 and complaining about travel arrangements and amenities in 2019. Details of Danielle Reyna, Gio Reyna's mother, calling then-U.S. Soccer director Earnie Stewart after the 2022 World Cup were also examined.
The female referee incident had not previously been disclosed and is perhaps the most shocking part of the report.
The report states: "We obtained an email from Mr. Reyna in July 2018, in which Mr. Reyna stated, 'Field, referee everything!! So embarrassing all the way around.' Mr. Reyna sent a follow-up email that stated: 'And in all honest [sic] can we get real and have male refs for a game like this. Its embarrassing guys. What are we trying to prove? A game like this deserves bett[e]r attention.'”
As of publish time, the Reyna family has not offered public comment on the results of the investigation.
What happened during and after 2022 World Cup?
Gio Reyna's fitness and attitude caused concern in U.S. camp and contributed to him being reduced to a substitute role in Qatar after many people had expected him to be a primary figure for the USMNT.
The Reyna family attended the USMNT's World Cup opener against Wales, and witnesses told investigators that Gio Reyna's mom and dad expressed immediate dissatisfaction at the player's role. In the following days, they "each made a vague comment to U.S. Soccer officials suggesting they knew damaging information about Mr. Berhalter that U.S. Soccer did not know."
Danielle Reyna's subsequent decision to tell Stewart via phone call that Berhalter "beat the sh*t" out of his future wife in 1992 was motivated by unhappiness about Gio Reyna's playing time at the World Cup, according to the report. The call occurred on December 11, 2022.
Egan had inside knowledge of the situation having been close friends with Rosalind Berhalter in college, and U.S. Soccer did not hold prior awareness of it.
Berhalter took responsibility for the incident in a public statement after the investigation began. He never faced criminal charges.
The report says the Reyna family did not blackmail Berhalter, even if their activity may have been unethical.
"Blackmail or extortion is the act of obtaining property by compelling or inducing a person to deliver such property by means of instilling in him a fear that, if the property is not so delivered," it says. "The actor or another will cause some form of harm to the person. Based on the facts gathered to date, we do not conclude that the Reynas’ actions rise to the level of or would otherwise result in a conviction for extortion. We obtained no information that could suggest that the Reynas demanded to receive something of value in exchange for not disclosing information about Mr. Berhalter to others."
How has U.S. Soccer responded to the conclusion of investigation?
In addition to announcing saying Berhalter would remain in consideration for the vacant USMNT head coaching role, U.S. Soccer included a comment referring to the Reyna family.
"The report also identifies a need to revisit U.S. Soccer’s policies concerning appropriate parental conduct and communications with staff at the National Team level," said U.S. Soccer in its statement. "We will be updating those policies as we continue to work to ensure safe environments for all participants in our game."
The investigation found that the 1992 incident involving Berhalter and his future wife Rosalind was an isolated act of violence.