Tom Sermanni, coach of the top-ranked U.S. women’s national soccer team, was fired Sunday night, just hours after the Americans had defeated China to extend its home unbeaten streak to 81 matches.
In a stunning development, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said in a written statement: “We felt that we needed to go in a different direction at this time.”
No other details were announced and Gulati said he did not want to comment further at this time. He is scheduled to discuss the matter during a media conference call late Monday afternoon.
“I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out,” Sermanni said in the USSF’s news release.
Director of Development Jill Ellis was named interim coach and will oversee Thursday’s friendly against China in San Diego. The next U.S. match is May 8 against Canada in Winnipeg. Ellis also served in the interim role in 2012 between Pia Sundhage‘s departure and Sermanni’s appointment.
Sermanni, a Scot who guided the Australia women for seven years, began his U.S. tenure in January 2013. He was 13-0-3 last year and 5-2-1 this year, culminating with a 2-0 victory over China on Sunday in suburban Denver.
His contract, valued at about $200,000 annually, was not scheduled to expire until Dec. 31, 2016. A clause in Sermanni’s contract says, in case of termination, the USSF must continue paying him for six months.
A source close to the situation said the players and the USSF had become increasingly concerned about the program’s direction ahead of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. Despite the No. 1 global ranking, the U.S. team fared poorly at the Algarve Cup in Portugal last month, tying Japan and losing to Sweden and Denmark before defeating North Korea for seventh place. The Americans had won eight of the previous 11 tournament titles.
The U.S. players aren’t “learning anything, there’s no vision, no direction, nothing,” the source said. It’s unclear whether players approached Gulati directly about their concerns.
The United States has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals but hasn’t won the World Cup since 1999.