After early World Cup exit, US women’s team coach Andonovski steps down

The US team lost to Sweden in the World Cup’s round of 16, a disappointing departure for a tournament favourite.

United States head coach Vlatko Andonovski has faced criticism after the women's team made its earliest departure ever from a World Cup [File: Jenna Watson/USA Today Sports/Reuters]

The coach for the United States Women’s football team, Vlatko Andonovski, has stepped down in the wake of the squad’s disappointing showing at the 2024 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The US’s early exit from the tournament — knocked out in the round of 16 by Sweden — came after the team took home the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. The showings, both under the leadership of Andonovski, were considered lacklustre given the team’s star-studded lineup and reputation as an international powerhouse.

In a statement on Thursday, Andonovski called coaching the team the “honor of my life”.

“I’m very optimistic for the future of this program, especially considering all the young players that got opportunities over the past few years who will no doubt be leaders and impact players moving forward,” he said.

Megan Rapino
United States player Megan Rapinoe, right, reacts with her teammates following their loss to Sweden in the FIFA Women’s World Cup [File: Scott Barbour/The Associated Press]

“While we are all disappointed by the outcome at this year’s World Cup, I am immensely proud of the progress this team has made.”

Twila Kilgore, who served as an assistant under Andonovski, will serve as interim head coach until a replacement is found.

The US’s departure in the round of 16 — a nail-biting loss that came down to a final penalty-kick shootout — represented the earliest exit the women’s team has ever made in a World Cup.

The team had become a cultural icon in the US, particularly after its successful push for equal pay with its male counterpart. It had won the last two World Cups, in 2015 and 2019, and had hoped to cement an era of dominance with a third victory.

But the US’s group stage matches in the 2023 tournament largely underwhelmed, with the team beating Vietnam 3-0 before drawing against Portugal and the Netherlands.

The performance prompted a blunt rebuke from retired-player-turned-commentator Carli Lloyd, whose hat trick in the 2015 World Cup final led the team to victory.

“The team was disjointed, was not a unit, and the coaching was not what this team needed,” Lloyd told The Athletic news site.

Andonovski, who rose to prominence coaching in the National Women’s Soccer League, was already set to have his contract expire at the end of this calendar year, according to Yahoo Sports.

ESPN has reported he is a candidate for the manager’s job with the Kansas City Current.

“We want to extend our deepest gratitude to Vlatko for his dedication to the Women’s National Team,” US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said in a statement.

“We know he will continue to contribute to the growth of the women’s game in the United States and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Spain’s national team is set to take on England in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies