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New USMNT general manager Brian McBride embraces challenge of new role

In his new position, McBride will focus on youth development and building relationships between clubs and the federation.

Former professional soccer player Brian McBride attends a watch party for the U.S. Women's National Team's Semifinal match of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup against England, at Lincoln Park Tuesday, July 2, 2019, in Chicago. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

New U.S. men’s national team general manager Brian McBride has only been on the job for four days, but he already feels confident he can help coach Gregg Berhalter make improvements in the new year.

After playing in three World Cups for the Americans, McBride said he knows how to develop success with the men’s national team. There were parts of last year’s results he believes caused “a need for some pride.” But McBride also knows that there’s plenty to improve as the Americans chase an Olympic berth this year.

McBride’s contract will extend through the conclusion of the 2022 World Cup, offering time to grow the program alongside coach Gregg Berhalter.

McBride will become a conduit between Berhalter and sporting director Earnie Stewart. Although he will assume hiring and firing power of the coaching staff for the men’s national team, McBride emphasized any change of coach would still require input from Stewart and the board of directors.

Despite his long history with U.S. Soccer as a player, McBride enters the role without previous experience in management. After retiring as a player in 2012, McBride pursued a career in broadcast. However, that wasn’t a concern to Stewart when he selected McBride for the role.

“Within soccer itself, if we’re looking at that experience, that was not there,” Stewart said. “However, being in the environment and knowing what that environment looks like as a player and captaining various teams within the environments he was at was an important part of the job. There’s some innate qualities that a person has and that you need to have as a manager and when I look at Brian and those unique interpersonal skills that he has, they are outstanding.”

For McBride, the timing was perfect. He began considering a role with the national team nine months ago, discussing with his wife how a new career would fit into their lives. 

Although he is aware of a lack of experience in a similar role, McBride said he believes that his previous experience as a captain — for the American team, as well as at the club level in Europe — will help him adapt quickly to his new role.

“I haven’t managed a club before,” McBride said. “I’m gonna rely on my understanding of soccer, understanding of players, understanding of high performance situations, whether it’s been at a club or it’s been at a national team level, and then basically work through the knowledge that I have there and help manage the situation there. I’ve done that as a captain of a team. I do have experience in that, just not necessarily as a general manager.”

His broadcast experience will factor into his new role, which is expected to be public and hands-on. McBride said he will travel often in the new position, becoming the main intermediary between American players and their clubs.

A key aspect of this role will be maintaining relationships with these organizations — particularly international clubs — to ensure American players are available for tournaments.

“I think that the TV side of things helped me stay involved in the soccer scene and understand the player pool, the ongoings of clubs across the world,” McBride said. “This is a job that requires me to be present, to build relationships, to understand what’s going on behind the scenes. That’s a huge benefit.”

Another main aspect of McBride’s role will focus on youth development.

This will include the recruitment of dual nationals, an area where the national team has succeeded recently, drawing players such as young defender Sergiño Dest. McBride says he will focus on building relationships with both players and their parents from a young age to create a visible pathway to the senior national team.

McBride will also help with the continued growth of the youth national teams. The federation is continuing to hire youth national team coaches — Stewart said one hire will be announced on Monday and another’s paperwork is pending.

For both Stewart and McBride, the federation’s goal is to shift the way it approaches its youth teams, creating a more cohesive style between the youth and senior squads.

“It really becomes a top-down effect,” McBride said. “We’ll collaborate together to try to build relationships and work through the aspect of finding the talent and nurturing it.”

McBride has been on the job for less than a week, but he noted the adjustment period will need to be quick as he works to prepare the team for the 2020 Olympics. The Americans have not qualified for the Olympics since 2008, when McBride was the team’s captain.

The new general manager is aware he inherits a team somewhat in turmoil — frustrated by results at the international, in the midst of turnover at the youth level. But McBride sees as a welcome challenge.

“If I didn’t think I could make an impact, I wouldn’t be the right person and I shouldn’t take the job,” McBride said. “I think we have to remember that we’re going through a period where we have a new coach, a lot of young players. It’s sometimes hard to see from the outside. That being said, there’s definitely been some times when we’ve been lacking in some things. At times, there was a lack of real focus or determination. I think I can help with those things.”

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