U.S. Women’s coach Pia Sundhage steps down, planning return to Sweden
U.S. Soccer announced on Saturday that U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage has stepped down from her post in order “to return home to pursue opportunities in Sweden,” according to a press release.
Sundhage is widely reported to be a leading candidate for the recently-vacated Swedish National Team manager’s job. A legend during her own playing career, she scored 71 goals in 146 international games for Sweden and coached in the country’s youth national system for 11 years from 1990-2001, coaching the Under-16s, the U-19s and U-21s.
“After the Olympics we had discussions and early in the process it became clear that Pia was very interested in returning home to Sweden,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati.
“It certainly wasn’t an easy decision for U.S. Soccer or Pia. She deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the amazing success the U.S. Women’s National Team had during the past five years. On behalf of U.S. Soccer, we sincerely appreciate Pia’s hard work, dedication and commitment to the organization. We wish her all the best in the future.”
Gulati and U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn say they will begin the search process for a new coach immediately, but there is no set timetable for when a decision will be determined.
“It was an honor to be able to coach these players for five years and I learned a tremendous amount from them,” said Sundhage in the press release. “I want to thank all the players and all of my assistant coaches for making me better. Before I took this job, I always admired the spirit and character of the U.S. team, but to experience that first-hand on the training field and from the bench as their coach was truly special and something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
“Although it is time to move on, I’d like to thank U.S. Soccer for this wonderful opportunity and I wish this team and the players all the best in the future.”
Sundhage was named the head coach of the USWNT in November of 2007 and compiled an 88-6-10 record. During her five years on the job Sundhage helped the U.S. team continue to evolve its style of play technically and tactically in the increasingly competitive environment of women’s international soccer. Her tenure culminated in two of the team’s best tournaments ever –- the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany and the 2012 Olympics — in terms of the quality of play on the field and excitement generated by the matches.
Sundhage’s intense passion for the game and her easygoing, free-spirit personality, which was on display two days before the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final when she sang Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feeling Groovy” in front of a packed press conference, endeared her to fans and media around the world.
In total, Sundhage won 11 tournament titles, including three prestigious Algarve Cup titles in Portugal, two Olympic qualifying tournaments and two Olympic gold medals.