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U.S. Soccer leadership shake-ups continue, Jay Berhalter resigns as commercial officer

Jay Berhalter was once a front-runner to become U.S. Soccer’s CEO, but now he resigns as the federation battles workplace concerns.

U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, left, looks on before an international friendly soccer match between the United States and Mexico, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. Mexico won 3-0. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)

A steady stream of changes at the top of U.S. Soccer continues, with the federation announcing Thursday that Jay Berhalter, one of the most high-ranking and influential leaders at U.S. Soccer, will step down.

Berhalter, U.S. Soccer’s chief commercial and strategy officer and a 15-year veteran at the federation, will leave his post at the end of the month. He has overseen U.S. Soccer’s financial strategy, including its efforts to increase commercial revenue, and he was the CEO of the Copa America Centenario organizing committee, which was the single most profitable event in U.S. Soccer history.

“Jay has played an invaluable role in the growth of our federation and the evolution of the game in our country,” U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said in a statement. “His deep understanding of all the technical, commercial, and business aspects of the sport will have a lasting impact on the game across America.”

For months, 48-year-old Berhalter was widely considered to be the front-runner to fill the vacant role of the federation’s top employee, CEO, since Dan Flynn stepped down last year. But a series of negative reports about morale at U.S. Soccer from outlets like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal specifically pinpointed his leadership as a problem, derailing his candidacy for the promotion.

After the reports of a “toxic” work environment, U.S. Soccer put the hiring of a new CEO on hold and began a series of employee surveys that have been used to implement workplace reforms. In those surveys, employees raised concerns about Berhalter. The CEO search has since resumed, with candidates being interviewed in December.

“I am fortunate to have worked with so many passionate teammates and proud of what we have been able to accomplish together at all levels of the game,” Berhalter said in a statement. “My decision to leave U.S. Soccer was not an easy one to make, but it’s the right one for my family and me at this time. Looking to the future, it is exciting to imagine the opportunities that lie ahead.”

The exit of Berhalter, brother of current USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, is only the latest since the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup at the end of 2017.

Since then, Sunil Gulati stepped down as president, replaced by Cordeiro, and Flynn has stepped down. Asher Mendelsohn, the federation’s chief soccer officer, stepped down late last year. The federation also added new senior positions, with Earnie Stewart being named the men’s general manager and quickly promoted to sporting director, and Kate Markgraf becoming the first women’s general manager at U.S. Soccer.

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