U.S. women's soccer team coach Jill Ellis will step down from the position at the end the program's post-World Cup victory tour in October.
Ellis' decision was announced by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Tuesday. Her contract was to expire on Wednesday. The team, which is gathering in Los Angeles this week, will play the Republic of Ireland on Saturday, at the Rose Bowl (10 p.m., ESPN2), and have four more games scheduled. They'll play Portugal on Aug. 29 in Philadelphia and Sept. 3 in St. Paul, Minn., then play two games in October with opponents and sites to be announced.
"The opportunity to coach this team and work with these amazing women has been the honor of a lifetime," Ellis said in a statement. "I want to thank and praise them for their commitment and passion to not only win championships but also raise the profile of this sport globally while being an inspiration to those who will follow them."
Since taking the helm on May 26, 2014, Ellis has won 102 of her 127 games. She led the U.S. team to historic highs in winning the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, and to a historic low in 2016 when the Americans crashed out of the Olympics quarterfinals _ the program's earliest ever exit from a major tournament.
Along the way, Ellis has managed not only some of the U.S. team's best-ever players, but also some of its biggest egos. She carefully managed Abby Wambach into a substitute role in 2015, and did the same with Carli Lloyd leading into this summer.
For the last year and a half, Ellis has done her work with the specter hanging over her of U.S. Soccer seeking a general manager to oversee the program. U.S. Soccer said Tuesday that the hiring "is imminent."
A source with knowledge of the situation told The Inquirer that U.S. Soccer has its candidate chosen, but the deal might not be done yet. Equalizer Soccer reported that it will not be Ellis.
U.S. Soccer said Ellis will remain with the Federation in an ambassador role "for at least the next year ... representing the Federation at various events and speaking engagements."
The effect that could have on her taking a coaching job elsewhere is unclear as of now.
"The U.S. Soccer Federation and the sport in general owes Jill a debt of gratitude," U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said in a statement. "Jill was always extremely passionate about this team, analytical, tremendously focused and not afraid to make tough decisions while giving her players the freedom to play to their strengths. She helped raise the bar for women's soccer in the USA and the world, and given the history of this program, the level of success she achieved is even more remarkable."
Throughout her tenure, Ellis has faced unrelenting pressure from the team's rabid fan base. When she took the job, she was tasked with ending the program's 16-year World Cup title drought. She succeeded. Then she was tasked with pushing the Americans to become the first reigning World Cup champion to win Olympic gold, and she failed. That compelled Ellis to dramatically overhaul her playbook, seeking a formation to deliver an all-out attack with the team's many superstars while also playing enough defense.
The chorus turned into a cacophony as Ellis' team failed to beat France in three straight contests, starting with a 3-0 drubbing in 2017 that set Les Bleues on course to be co-favorites in the World Cup they hosted. But when the teams met in Paris in the quarterfinals, Ellis' experience in women's soccer's toughest pressure-cooker prevailed. She didn't make all the right moves, but she made more than any other coach in the field. The U.S. didn't just win the World Cup, it did so with a perfect 7-0 record _ better than in 2015 _ and beat five of the world's top teams in succession: Sweden, Spain, France, England and the Netherlands.
"In a real game, the U.S. is a very different team from what it is in friendlies," French coach Corinne Diacre said as she conceded defeat.
Ellis leaves having checked every box except two: winning Olympic gold as World Cup champion, and winning Olympic gold as a head coach. She does have a medal, having served as an assistant on Pia Sundhage's squad that won in 2012.
It will now be up to the new general manager and whoever he or she hires as coach to build toward next year's Olympics in Tokyo. The new coach's first games in charge are likely to be in early November.
"The timing is right to move on, and the program is positioned to remain at the pinnacle of women's soccer," Ellis said.
Names to watch include three coaches from the NWSL: Vlatko Andonovski of Tacoma, Wash.-based Reign FC; Laura Harvey of the Utah Royals; and Mark Parsons of the Portland Thorns. A foreign candidate to consider is the Netherlands' Sarina Wiegman, who played college soccer at North Carolina with Mia Hamm and led the Dutch to the 2017 European Championship and this year's World Cup final.