So you need a new challenge in a couple years, Pep? Seven years at Man City will be enough? I agree. Want to try yourself at the international stage? Really all that’s left for you at age 50. Not much left to prove at club level, other than maybe not shitting yourself in the latter stages of the Champions League. But you’ll get two more cracks at that, and I’d still bet you’ll get one of them right more than I would you be that you whiff twice more. Doesn’t really matter though.
Want a break after that? That’s cool. Because, luckily, the U.S. Men’s National team won’t have much to do either. Y’see, ol’ Peppy, we don’t have to qualify for the 2026 World Cup. We’re hosting the damn thing. Which is great, except it leaves a lot of down time. Which works out for both you… and us.
You should come manage us, Pep, for a variety of reasons. Y’see, the thing is, come that 2026 World Cup, merely getting to the round of 16 isn’t going to be good enough. Maybe even the quarterfinals won’t be either. We need to make some serious noise. It’ll be long past time.
You might think, “Hey, that Gregg Berhalter has done a pretty good job. In that at least he’s blended in a wealth of young, European-based talent and has created more excitement about the since… well, maybe ever.” All good points, Pep. But international coaches rarely last more than one World Cup cycle. The U.S. has learned this the hard way. Bob Bradley got two, and they even tried him for a third, before that went sideways in a hurry. Jürgen Klinsmann was kept for the start of a second, watched Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones utterly shit all over his plans to play Christian Pulisic in the middle, and was soon out of the job.
Bruce Arena’s second crack… let’s not even talk about that.
Berhalter might be a Point A to Point B guy, Pep. He’s taken the team out of the biggest doldrums possible — missing the 2018 World Cup — provided some results to get excited about, reshaped the squad to a much younger and much more exciting structure, and has everyone bouncing in anticipation of what it might do. That’s a lot, admittedly. But we really don’t know what he can do in a tournament. He took the B or C Team to this last Gold Cup (and did win it, to be fair). The previous Gold Cup was also something of an experimental side. We know he can bring youth into the program and make them feel at home. That’s not nothing.
But who knows if he wants the job beyond Qatar. And we need to aim bigger. And Pep, honestly, you need the challenge. Whatever you’ve accomplished in the past decade and a half, there’s always been that nagging criticism that you’ve done it with the best teams in the world before you got there. Barcelona is Barcelona, and were Champions League winners just before you took the job. Munich had won the Treble the year before you took over. Man City have all the money in the world. You get whatever player you want (except for Harry Kane apparently).
Even though the U.S. will sport more talent than most of the world realizes in 2026, they’ll still be considered something of an underdog. And it won’t be what Spain or Brazil or Germany or Italy can sport, likely. You can prove you can take something and make it far more than the sum of its parts.
It’s really the only box you have left to tick.
And it’ll be full of the type of players you love! Pulisic, Reyna, de La Fuente, McKennie, Adams, Dest, Aaronson… these are just the young players now we think will still be around the national team frame in three or four years. There’s always more. We can’t seem to stop producing them. All of them have equivalents on the teams you’ve managed in the system you play. And all of the players mentioned above will be in their primes come 2026. That’s when the U.S. is pointed to peak. You can ride the wave.
And we need you, Pep, to keep the cycle of players choosing us over more established countries. Berhalter has done it through atmosphere, getting Musah or Dest simply because they had so much fun and were so welcome when invited in. You can do it through the promise of development. What player wouldn’t want to work with you?!
Are we worried about your knockout tournament record of late? Yeah, a touch. Y’see, those Champions League quarters, or semis, or final where you tend to go into vapor lock? Every game in a World Cup is that. You don’t get a lot of time or experimentation once the thing starts. You gotta know.
But here’s the thing, Pep. And I’ll whisper this… you don’t actually have to win the whole thing. Don’t tell anyone I said that.
Oh sure, it’d be great if you did, and your place as greatest manager ever would never be questioned again if you did. But you don’t have to. A semifinal appearance, or a final appearance, would be treated as a huge success here. Unless you play Reyna at centerback or something in a 1-0 loss to Argentina. We wouldn’t go for that. But that’s the standard around here.
And hey, Pep, if you really need to have the world’s biggest assortment of talent at your disposal, and you want to experience not just being in a World Cup but winning it, you can coach the women’s team! You’ll have to wait until 2027 for that, but the USWNT could probably use a refresher in playing intricate, attractive, attacking soccer again. If they don’t win in 2023, there will be immense pressure for something big. If that suits you.
Take the road less traveled, Pep. We know you like it here, you lived in New York for a while. We know you know the deal here. Even with the growing interest, the press here won’t be nearly as ravenous as other places you might go. It’s international management. There’s a lot of time off and a lot of travel. Take the leap.
Note to my editors: Let’s rerun this in a year or two but replace Pep’s name with “Jürgen Klopp” if he does indeed leave Liverpool in 2024.