U.S. Soccer is experiencing a brutal period. Gregg Berhalter’s contract is up but is still being considered as a potential option for the men's head coaching gig.
While the next coach is being decided there’s been an incredibly childish conflict between Berhalter and the parents of phenom Gio Reyna. The Reyna parents allegedly blackmailed Berhalter over an incident back in 1991 when he kicked his now wife, Rosalind.
Danielle Reyna reported the 1991 abuse incident to U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart on Dec. 11. An independent investigation conducted by Alston & Bird LLP was hired after Stewart learned of the matter.
U.S. Soccer held a roughly 40-minute press conference on Wednesday. You would think the press conference was held to address the drama between the Reyna and Berhalter families becoming public, discuss Anthony Hudson being put in charge of the January camp and the uncertainty around Berhalter’s future.
U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone, CEO and secretary general JT Batson and Stewart “answered” the questions from the press.
Hardly any questions were answered, and twice Batson laughed about forgetting the question that had just been asked to him.
Here’s the press conference in its entirety.
Full U.S. Soccer Press Conference
Cindy Parlow Cone: Happy New Year, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Over the past couple of years, under our new leadership team, JT being our newest, I think, is in his third month, we've made important changes in how U.S. Soccer operates, especially as it relates to how we handle allegations of misconduct. We take allegations seriously; we investigate them and handle the communication with transparency. So this is why on December 11, we initiated an investigation into an allegation of past misconduct against Gregg Berhalter. We hired a top-notch team of high integrity, experienced outside investigators to gather the facts about the allegation against Gregg and to follow the facts wherever they may lead. This now includes investigating potential inappropriate behavior towards multiple members of our staff by people outside of the organization. So obviously, the investigation is ongoing and being conducted entirely independently from U.S. Soccer. So, we likely won't be able to answer all the questions you have today. We don't yet have all the facts, so we won't be able to share much with you until we do. And as part of our commitment to transparency, we will share the results of the investigation when it's complete and take any appropriate action as needed. So with that, I'll turn it over to you, JT.
JT Batson: Thank you, Cindy. As Cindy said, we do want to be as open and transparent with you as possible, but as you know, at this point, there are a lot of unknowns, a lot of unanswered questions. And so with that in mind, that may impact what we can share with you today and going forward until the conclusion of this investigation. One thing that I thought was important to clarify, which Cindy touched on, based on some of the questions we've gotten from you over the past 24 hours, is to Cindy's point, on December 11, we started the investigation based on the allegations shared with us about a historical incident. Through that investigation, we learned of potentially inappropriate communication towards U.S. Soccer staff from folks from outside of our organization. We take that very seriously, and it's something that we've had a conversation with our staff around. How do we going forward, how do we ensure that we have the right procedures and processes in place for folks to recognize that and report it real time so that this is something that, as we go forward, we're able to ensure that we have the right working environment and the positive working environment that all of us want to be a part of and all of us should be proud of as members of the U.S. Soccer family. As you all know, we are still in the process of conducting our full technical review of our Men's National Team program, which Earnie and team are leading. We do this at the end of every World Cup, and we certainly are keeping in mind the fact that we're hosting the World Cup in 2026 and our ambitions are high. We knew that this process could extend beyond the end of the year and so from the outset have been planning for a scenario for a coaching staff dedicated to the January camp, which Ernie will share with you more, both regards to our process as well as how we're thinking about the January camp. So with that, I'll turn it over to Earnie to take you through our sporting review and where we stand there.
Earnie Stewart: Thank you very much JT, and thanks everybody for being on the call. Happy New Year. And as all of you have seen, we have named Anthony Hudson as the head coach for our January camp. Anthony comes as someone who has led or led the New Zealand National team and has the experience together with that and has been an assistant to Gregg Berhalter for a longer period of time and was there at the World Cup as well. In the attempt to also have consistency moving forward, we made sure that Anthony would be the one to lead this group during January camp and he will be assisted by B.J. Callaghan, who also has been on staff for the last four years. And Mikey Varas has been added to that group as well. Mikey is our under 20 coach that qualified for the Olympics and the World Championships under-20. So with this group, we're very happy. We're very confident that we are going to make sure that this camp is just as good as any other camp that we have for the friendlies that we're going to be playing against Serbia and Colombia later on this month. As JT alluded to, after every camp, no matter after every World Cup, I would say youth national teams, extended national teams, but also our senior national teams. We always will have a review of what went on, one, during the World Championship in trying to better ourselves every time that we go along. And obviously after a longer period of four years, which I can say has been a successful four years by the group that was in front of this group qualified line for the World Cup, going back to Nations League, Gold Cup. But especially leading up to what we talked about four and a half years ago was getting to a place where the identification of our style of play and who we are and how we want to perform at a World Cup. And I could say that I was pleased with that piece. So very happy with this group after the four years. But you're always looking forward to 2026. We have an important moment coming along which is going to go faster than we all know. So this review is very important for us not only to look at the World Cup but look it over it from a bigger perspective and making sure that we're making the choices, the right choices to move forward and continue the pathway that we've been following now for four and a half years to we're an ambitious organization. We want to make sure that we do really well at 2026. We'll continue with the review process of, one, the World Cup, but then two, also a longer period of time and then obviously make the best choices for the future after this World Cup. Usually the World Cup is in the summer. It would allow us a little bit more time to do that. Having a World Cup now be in November and December obviously gives us a little bit of a smaller timeline in that or compacted situation. We actually took that into account because we knew this review could last longer and therefore very happy that Anthony and his group are going to lead to January camp. That gives us the time to make sure that we're making the right choices moving forward because making the right choice over speedy choices is always going to be better in my mind. Once again, very ambitious towards 2026 and we're gearing up and getting ready for that and making sure that we make the right choices in that.
Steven Goff (The Washington Post): Thanks for doing this. Earnie, I wanted to ask you, you've obviously known Gregg very well for a long time. You've known Claudio a long time. What's your reaction to this very public rift that's going on, and are you concerned that one of your top young players might be in a difficult situation going forward if indeed Gregg stays on as coach.
Earnie Stewart: First and foremost, let me start, like, my priorities and where they are. I work for U.S. soccer, and obviously there's a history with Gregg. There's a history with the U.S. Soccer ecosystem. But I also know what my priorities are when it comes to U.S. Soccer and Cindy alluded to that in the beginning of our conversation of the organization that we've become and how transparent we want to be. Putting all those things this is not a fun period, I can say that. But at the same time, this is the way that we're handling things. Once again, we'll have this review and investigation go on, and then we'll move forward. And what I can say in general, without taking out individuals, is that every player that has a U.S. Passport will be eligible to play for our U.S. national team. I don't see any problems moving forward in any kind of regards to any player when it comes to our U.S. national team that can contribute.
Jonathan Tannenwald (Philadelphia Inquirer): Thanks, Neil. Thanks, everybody. I have a question that dovetails a little bit with the with Steve's question that he just asked, and it's for Earnie. That which is in the public domain right now in terms of what has been reported is out there, and it's been widely reported by a lot of places. So I hope you won't mind my asking, at any point, did you say to any of the Reynas, ‘hey, can we pull it for a little while here? We're in the middle of a World Cup.’ And if so, to play off Steve's question as he asks you, what was that like for you as somebody who has known all these people and played with them and been so close with them for so long?
Earnie Stewart: Once again, Jonathan. I understand your question. At the same time, once again, just where my priorities lie with U.S. Soccer and making sure that we have the best possible situation and organization around our team in the environment. I like to keep it to that.
Paul Tenorio (The Athletic): This is another one for Earnie. Obviously in today and Danielle Reyna's statement, she says that she spoke with you on December 11 and spoke with you about the incident 31 years ago, but that she expected it to remain private. I wonder if your recollection of that conversation is the same, whether it was something that you took to U.S. Soccer because of the reporting methods that are put into place by the federation or if you were asked to investigate those actions by Gregg Berhalter and also whether or not anything that's going on now has removed Gregg Berhalter from consideration as U.S. men's national team head coach.
Earnie Stewart: So, thank you for the question. But right now the investigation is still ongoing, so we can't say too much about that. And when it comes to our head coaching position that we have right now, Gregg Berhalter until the investigation and the review takes place is still under consideration for the head coach job of our U.S. men's national team.
Ronald Blum (Associated Press): Hey Earnie, thank you for doing this. Aside from the allegation, given what Gregg said publicly against a player disparaging a player that clearly was Gio, how could if he stayed on his job and his credibility with the team and the public exist?
Earnie Stewart: Because this investigation is still going on, I can't answer too much to it. I can go back to the first statement that I made for the future is that every player that has a U.S. national team passport and is in our camps, one will be selected and two will be available for games because we're here for U.S. Soccer and performing at the best standard that there is.
Beau Dure (The Guardian): I want to ask JT and Cindy something, which is that there's been mention you mentioned it as well as the statement mentioned it, which is the investigations of misconduct against multiple members from outside the organization. Can you possibly describe the type of misconduct involved and related to that is the U.S. Center for SafeSport involved?
Cindy Parlow Cone: Obviously we want to share as much with you guys as possible, but it's also important to protect the integrity of the investigation. At this time we're not able to share any more additional information about the inappropriate behavior or the misconduct, but obviously we will share the results of the report once it's completed.
Stephanie Yang (The Athletic): I'm just wondering, obviously, without revealing specific details, given everything that's been going on in the past couple of years or so, how much of the situation falls under the remit of Mana Shim's Participant Safety Task Force or perhaps Danielle Slaton with her implementation group? And basically, what are the ways that U.S. Soccer might be discussing integrating trauma informed policies and responding to these types of situations that seem to keep coming up, particularly given in this case. There is disclosure without the victim's consent, as far as we know. But in the context of perhaps being a mandatory reporter feeling a moral obligation to say something as Paul alluded to.
JT Batson: Without getting to the specifics of the investigation. And it is very much ongoing and there is lots that we still don't know. One of the things we talked about when we launched the Participant Safety Task Force was around changing the culture within soccer and around changing that culture very broadly. And so and how we educate ourselves as not just U.S. Soccer organization, but as an ecosystem and as a broader society around how we create positive environments from our elite levels all the way to those who are first starting to play the game. That is something in a broad sense that is very much top of mind for Participant Safety Task Force. And I know that we've started conversations on that front and will certainly be something we focus on as we go forward.
Charles Boehm: I hope that both Cindy and Earnie will answer this or attempt to answer, but with regards to the coaching search, there's a lot of talk about second cycle coaches and the limits that one person can have in getting the most out of a program in an eight-year span. With your experiences as players, coaches, executives, what is your view on that? I know we've seen some idea that this World Cup disproves some of the second cycle syndrome ideas, but do you both see this as natural and positive that a coach would be in charge for eight years straight?
Earnie Stewart: I think it has a lot to do with the individual that you have in front of the group. I think there's positive situations that you can talk about and there's negative situations that you can talk about. And how I view this from my standpoint is, one, the reaction of players towards a coach, that is a very important piece to, one, the direction that you're going to as an organization. You have goals, and as we have lofty goals in front of us, we want to play in a certain way. And once you step on a field every single day and you see a coach doing better and taking that group there every single time and keeping the group, being able to motivate them at every aspect of the game, that's where my attention goes to when I look at coaches. And once again, there's coaches that are very good with that. They have a certain style that's in your face. You can imagine at some point that at some point that might end, and that could be after four years, but then you have the coaches that are very process oriented towards the future, and those are usually coaches that can go a little bit longer. It's not trying to motivate the player from their souls every single day when they step onto the field, but more process-oriented coach. I'd say there's good and bad examples of that. What I do believe is in consistency and continuity, in the way that you play, in the way that you do things and making sure that when players come into camp that they have a recollection of what happened the last time. So that consistency and continuity is really important. That doesn't necessarily always have to happen with the same coach, but it does make that process easier.
Cindy Parlow Cone: Yeah, I think just to add on to that, I think looking at it as a four year coach or a two cycle coach is oversimplifying. It's much of what Earnie laid out, there's a lot of characteristics that make a coach successful. And you can't just look at how long that they've been at the helm. You have to look at all the details who the coaches, who are the players and all the other things that Earnie laid out. And so that is one of the reasons why we're doing a full technical review, as we do after each major tournament, and then the staff will sit down and look at that and continue through our technical review.
Kevin Baxter (L.A. Times): I have a couple of questions. One well, they're both kind of toss-up. One is hopefully an easy question. In the release that we got yesterday, it talked about the investigation, and it was a little unclear the way it was worded. Whether the investigation is into the original incident that Gregg has already talked about that happened 31 years ago. Whether the investigation is into the call from outside, you know, bringing this incident back up again, whether it's into both. What exactly is the is the investigation focusing on and how long will it do you expect it to take? And secondly, there had been a report that Gregg was the front runner to retain the job, and that's all been put on hold. If this investigation goes on three, six, nine months, would you continue to operate with an interim coach? Thank you,
JT Batson: Cindy, do you want me to do the first one?
Cindy Parlow Cone: Sure. I don't remember which one was the first one.
JT Batson: Actually, at this point, I'm not sure that I do either. On December 11, we received notice of an allegation that we felt merited a formal investigation that we kicked off. We kick off an investigation into the incident that was alleged to us regarding Gregg Berhalter that predated his time as men's national team coach. That is the investigation we started. Through the course of that investigation, we learned of potentially inappropriate communication and behavior from third parties towards U.S. Soccer staff, and we have included that into the investigation. But to clarify, we are investigating the allegation involving Gregg Berhalter as well as the potentially inappropriate comments towards U.S. Soccer staff. So, both of those things are being investigated.
Cindy Parlow Cone: And then I think I'll take what was the second question, which is how long is the investigation? We don't know because it is completely independent. We want them to follow the facts wherever they lead. But obviously we need to speed this along so that we can name who is going to be the head coach of the men's national team and start gearing up for World Cup 2026. So we want to move quickly but not rush.
Henry Bushnell (Yahoo Sports): I think this question could be for any of you three. Obviously, this has been a really difficult time for the Berhalters and especially for Rosalind to have this traumatic experience from three decades ago become so public. Have you or what sort of resources or support have you provided to her or them, if any, while also trying to balance the fact that as you continue to talk about, there's this ongoing investigation that you're trying to respect?
JT Batson: In our communication with our staff and all of our employees, we have reiterated the support we provide broadly, and that has been communicated to all staff of U.S soccer.
Andrew Jones: In terms of the statement that was made yesterday in regards to multiple members of our staff. For all of you, would that also include any one of you up here in this press conference today? And the statement that Gregg Berhalter released yesterday highlighted the words ‘take me down’ in his statement towards these allegations. Would you consider or from the words that he was saying there, as a blackmail attempt on not only him, but multiple members of your staff?
Cindy Parlow Cone: As we said before, the investigation, is still underway. We are in the early days, we don't have all the facts yet. The team at Alston & Bird, many of whom are former prosecutors, have been given full autonomy and we will follow their advice on the involvement of the outside people that are engaged in this. We'll take their advice and obviously, once the report is completed, we'll share that publicly.
Sebastian Salazar (ESPN): So Earnie earlier mentioned that Gregg Berhalter is still under consideration kind of pending the results of the investigation. Correct me if I'm wrong there, I just wonder for JT and Cindy, how you feel about the fact that someone who has just recently admitted to an act of domestic violence, be it back to 1991, is still under consideration for the national team job?
JT Batson: The investigation is still ongoing. We are awaiting a report from Alston & Bird which states what they have found through this and then through that we will be able to make a decision with regards to how we progress forward.
Alexi Lalas (FOX Sports): Greetings. I get it. There's an investigation going on. So this is a simple question, yes or no answer to all three of you. Given what you know, either over the last 31 years or the last four years or the last two months or the last two days. As of today, with the understanding that the investigation is continuing on, would any of you have a problem if Gregg Berhalter continued on as the U.S. men’s national team coach? Yes, or no?
JT Batson: I don't feel comfortable answering that question given all of the sort of details with regards to the investigation underway. Coming into the start of the process as Earnie mentioned, Gregg is one of the candidates being considered as a part of our full review and we have agreed that we need to let the investigation play out before we can make any determinations there otherwise it's just hypotheticals.
(JT was the only one to answer the Lalas’ question.)
Donald Wine (SB Nation): The question that I have is obviously you mentioned this ongoing investigation, but that Gregg is a candidate. I know and Earnie, maybe I'll start with you. This process of picking a new coach or the process of evaluating the coaching position still has to continue. Will you start interviewing candidates at this time? And if this investigation continues to be ongoing, would that preclude Gregg Berhalter from being interviewed to continue on as head coach?
Earnie Stewart: From an investigation standpoint, I think that speaks for itself. But my job is also to make sure that U.S. Soccer is in good hands. So, one, that that review takes place. Two, that we then look at what's best for the next four years, and then we have to make determinations on where we are at that moment. So that's my job, to make sure that there's a pool of candidates at any given moment, no matter this moment or even six months or two years back, that there's a pool of candidates that you can think about. So that's part of the job, and that will be ongoing as we speak.
Alex Silverman (Sports Business Journal): With the technical review. If this investigation were not taking place, do you believe that would have been completed by this point? And if not, do you believe that independent, if the investigation were not taking place, that Gregg Berhalter would be in an interim capacity running the current camp?
Earnie Stewart: I think that's just a difficult one because it's a hypothetical question. We're in the situation that we are right now. So, once again, until this investigation and the review are over, then we can move forward. What I can say is that a review takes longer than a couple of days. We did play into that by making sure that we had those people available for January camp when that was necessary, because we had a pretty good idea that the review could last longer in itself too.
Cindy Parlow Cone: I’ll just chime in there too, as well. I think one of the things that we were up against is the timing of the World Cup and having the World Cup so late in the year and then bumping up right against the holidays. Usually when the World Cup is in the summer, a coach's contract ends in December, and so we have more time to conduct the review and move forward with this. And so, obviously, we're in a condensed timeline, so to speak, before the next camp. So that's why Earnie and his team had already prepared to have another coach lead that camp.
Mark Zeigler (San Diego Union-Tribune): Two-part question. The first is for JT or Earnie. Second is for Cindy. The first part is this is an allegation that you obviously thought was serious enough to launch an immediate outside investigation. And in his statement yesterday, Gregg Berhalter said that he immediately told his parents and his family about the incident that would presumably be Jay Berhalter who is an executive in your administration when Gregg was hired. How disappointed are you that you did not, as an as an institution or as an organization, did not know about this incident when he was hired and been able to investigate it? And then for you, Cindy, can you just pull back 30,000 feet as a head of this organization. And these are two sort of leading soccer family. They're best friends, best man at each other's weddings, college roommates, and they're feuding in public. The stain is obviously upon your organization. Is that embarrassing? How would you describe that?
JT Batson: Earnie, do you want to do the first one?
Earnie Stewart: No, you can go ahead JT.
JT Batson: I apologize I honestly don't remember what it was, so I'm happy to take it if you don’t mind.
(Mark Zeigler repeats the question)
JT Batson: I'd imagine this is something that Alston & Bird will be reviewing, but none of our current leadership was aware of this. And so this is something that Alston & Bird as a part of the investigation will, I'm sure, try to understand.
Cindy Parlow Cone: And then for the second part of your question, obviously, this is not a positive time for soccer in this country and for our men’s national team, and it's a tough time for the families involved. I'm just hopeful that we can find resolution to this quickly and move forward with our men's team as well as for U.S. soccer in general to be able to move forward.
Paul Kennedy (SoccerAmerica): I have two-part questions along the same lines, a little bit of what Mark asked. Will the 2018 hiring process by which Gregg was hired be investigated to go into the questions that were asked the answers that Gregg have made? And currently does the hiring process for key executives or key coaches like Gregg include questions related to some type of incident domestic violence like has been revealed that would go back, like, in Gregg's case, many, many years?
JT Batson: I think that will be one of the things that we review and coming out of this will, I'm sure, be learnings and recommendations to make sure that we're approaching things with the sophistication and the sort of level of professionalism that we are striving to deliver against every day. So that'll be a part of the review and we'll learn and we'll go from there.