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U.S. Soccer: ‘No legal impediment’ to rehiring Gregg Berhalter as USMNT coach

Gregg Berhalter guided the U.S. men's national team at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Details of a sordid rift between two prominent U.S. soccer families — one that included allegations of domestic abuse against men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter and parental complaints about Gio Reyna’s playing time at the 2022 World Cup — continued to spill out Monday when the findings of an independent investigation were released.

The three-month probe, conducted by the Alston & Bird law firm, concluded Berhalter had not committed any additional acts of violence against his now-wife since 1992 and hadn’t violated any disclosure rules during his hiring process. He had previously admitted to kicking her while they were dating as students at the University of North Carolina.

With that finding, the U.S. Soccer Federation said Berhalter would remain a candidate to return as coach. His contract expired Dec. 31.

“Given the investigators’ conclusion that there is no legal impediment to employing him, Gregg Berhalter remains a candidate to serve as head coach,” the USSF said in a statement.

The governing body said it will not hire a coach until it appoints a new sporting director, a position that oversees all national teams. Earnie Stewart left the job last month. Anthony Hudson, a World Cup assistant, is the interim coach.

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The next coach will begin preparing the U.S. team for the 2026 World Cup, which will take place in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Berhalter guided the United States for four years, leading a young squad to two regional championships and a place in the World Cup, where it finished second in group play and lost to the Netherlands in the round of 16.

Investigators said in the report that they “uncovered no facts to show that U.S. Soccer knew of the 1992 Incident when it hired Mr. Berhalter; no facts to show that similar incidents occurred at any point in the last 31 years; no facts to show that the 1992 Incident has any nexus to the present or to the workplace; and no facts to support a claim that Mr. Berhalter presents a risk of harm to others.”

Berhalter’s wife, Rosalind, told investigators she was not injured and didn’t complain to the university. No police report was filed, so Berhalter was under no obligation to reveal the incident during his job interview, the report stated. “There is no basis to conclude that Mr. Berhalter misled U.S. Soccer about the 1992 Incident at any time,” the investigators stated.

They did, however, say the incident was “unlawful and improper” and, had it occurred during Berhalter’s tenure as U.S. coach, “it would have created significant legal issues for the organization.”

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The Berhalters have been married for 25 years and have four children.

“First and foremost, Rosalind and I have respect for the process U.S. Soccer had to go through. We’re grateful that it’s concluded, and we look forward to what’s next,” Gregg Berhalter said Monday.

Details of the altercation were brought to the USSF in December by Danielle Reyna, the mother of rising star Gio Reyna and the college roommate of Rosalind Berhalter.

Danielle Reyna and her husband, former U.S. star Claudio Reyna, a close friend to Gregg Berhalter for decades, were upset with Berhalter during and after the World Cup. Gio Reyna, one of the team’s top young players, played sparingly in the tournament.

During a speech in New York three days after the United States was eliminated, Berhalter implied, without naming him, that Gio Reyna had created problems behind the scenes in the days leading up to the tournament and was nearly sent home.

Berhalter was told the speech was off the record, but a transcript was made public.

Danielle Reyna then shared the 1992 incident with the USSF, which prompted the investigation and put on hold the federation’s decision whether to offer Berhalter a new contract.

In a preemptive move, Berhalter went public with details about the incident and suggested it was being used against him.

A USSF employee — whose name was redacted from the report, the federation said, to protect privacy — told investigators that, after Gio Reyna did not play in the World Cup opener against Wales, Danielle Reyna said “something along the lines of: ‘Once this tournament is over, I can make one phone call and give one interview, and his cool sneakers and bounce passes will be gone. … I can take him down.’ ”

During games, Berhalter wore high-end sneakers, and when the ball came to him, he often would return it to a player with a basketball-style bounce pass.

Brian McBride, the team’s general manager at the time and Claudio Reyna’s former teammate, received an email from Claudio Reyna after the draw with Wales, the report stated. “Our entire family is disgusted, angry, and done with you guys,” it said.

It was not the first time Claudio Reyna, a Hall of Famer and four-time World Cup player, had complained about his son’s treatment. The report said, “Witnesses described a pattern of periodic outreach by Mr. Reyna to U.S. Soccer officials and staff from in or around 2016 through the end of 2022, the purpose of which was to convey certain complaints and comments.”

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Witnesses, the report said, claimed Reyna attempted to influence decisions by U.S. officials and staff members concerning his children on “issues ranging from travel arrangements to the impact of on-pitch refereeing decisions.”

Gio Reyna was a member of youth national teams between 2016 and 2019.

Gregg Berhalter told investigators, “When things don’t go great for Gio, [the Reynas] pivot and go into attack mode.” He said what occurred at the 2022 World Cup was similar to what happened at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup.

In 2018, the report stated, Claudio Reyna complained to the USSF about a female referee working an academy game involving Gio Reyna. The email said, “Can we get real and have male refs for a game like this?”

Claudio Reyna declined to be interviewed by investigators, the report said. But his attorneys disputed that, saying he tried multiple times to provide information, answer questions and respond to allegations.

Dan Segal, an agent representing Claudio and Gio Reyna, said in a statement: “Claudio and Danielle acknowledge they have said and done things in the heat of the moment they regret, particularly the statement that triggered the investigation. Gio acknowledges that, like countless players before, he showed too much disappointment when not selected to play at the World Cup. That is only part of the story here, but the only side of the story that the investigators chose to tell. It is disheartening and grossly unfair to see the family turned into one-dimensional caricatures to progress a narrative that benefits others.”

Danielle Reyna, the report said, initially denied sharing information with Stewart about the Berhalters’ altercation, then called investigators back and confirmed she had spoken with him.

“We were impressed with Mr. Berhalter’s candor and demeanor during the investigation,” the report stated. It later noted, “We were less impressed with the Reynas’ cooperation during the investigation.”

According to the report, Berhalter told investigators that, during the World Cup: “There were 150 people in the Friends and Family program [in Qatar]. All were having a great time — except for five people who were absolutely miserable. Those five were cursing, acting horribly. It was the Reynas.”

The report said Claudio Reyna’s actions raised “a legitimate issue about whether he violated FIFA’s rules and regulations” because he was the sporting director of MLS’s Austin FC. (In January, he resigned.) The Reynas, however, didn’t violate any laws, it stated.

The USSF said Claudio Reyna’s alleged actions didn’t violate any of the organization’s policies because it does not have a communication policy involving parents of players.

It’s unclear how the report will affect Gio Reyna’s status with the national team. The first training camp since the World Cup that includes top European-based players will open next week and include Concacaf Nations League matches at Grenada on March 24 and against El Salvador on March 27 in Orlando. That roster will be announced this week. Hudson, the interim coach, met with Reyna a few weeks ago in Germany, where he plays for Borussia Dortmund.