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Should Patrick Vieira be the next USMNT head coach?

Managerial life in the Premier League is more difficult than in any other league in world soccer. Patrick Vieira knows this better than anyone else after his dismissal as Crystal Palace manager last week. Under the Frenchman, Palace developed a more attractive style of play. Last season, they finished 12th and they’re 12th again this season.

This, however, wasn’t enough for Vieira to keep his job.

The Selhurst Park club have made a pre-emptive strike after going 11 Premier League matches without a win – which grew to 12 with a defeat to Arsenal two days after Vieira’s firing. Crystal Palace might be sitting 12th in the table, but the bottom half is so tight that they are just three points above the relegation zone.

Despite Palace’s poor form of the last few weeks and months, Vieira can look back at a relative degree of success as manager of the Selhurst Park club. The Eagles played a more modern, expansive game under the former midfielder with young players like Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze given a platform to develop.

Vieira’s firing naturally spawns questions as to his future and which club – or country – would be a good fit. One wonders how US Soccer regards Vieira’s time at Crystal Palace and his potential candidacy for the US men’s national team head coach job. Three months have passed since the end of the 2022 World Cup and it’s still not clear which direction the USMNT will head in with Gregg Berhalter no longer under contract.

Of course, the independent investigation into the scandal involving Berhalter, his family and the Reyna family took some time to shake out with Berhalter ultimately ruled employable. He remains a candidate to keep hold of his job and lead the USA into the 2026 World Cup, which will be co-hosted on home soil.

One report claimed Zinedine Zidane had been approached by US Soccer over the job only for the Ballon d’Or winner to knock them back. This demonstrated the federation’s willingness to assess all options. While Jim Curtin and Jesse Marsch are also seen as candidates, the next USMNT manager could be a big-name foreigner.

Vieira would fit the bill in that regard. The 46-year-old was one of the best midfielders of his generation and would surely command the respect of the USMNT dressing room. Vieira has coached in Ligue 1 and the Premier League after coming through the coaching system at Manchester City. He has genuine pedigree.

The Frenchman also has some knowledge of the American game having served as New York City FC head coach for two years. This doesn’t necessarily count for much, particularly because it’s been five years since Vieira was in Major League Soccer, but it shows he is open-minded to different opportunities around the world.

Tactically, Vieira might also be a good fit for the USA. Generally speaking, he favours a possession-orientated style of play, but is also a pragmatist. At Crystal Palace, Vieira frequently changed his approach depending on the task at hand and this flexibility could be what the USMNT needs in a tournament setting.

Many believe the US should continue with the possession-heavy approach favoured by Berhalter even if Berhalter isn’t the man to lead the national team into the next World Cup. Others argue a Red Bull-esque style like the one used by Marsch would be a better fit for the sort of players currently on the USMNT roster. The appointment of Vieira, however, would mean the US isn’t faced with such a stark choice. 

With the 2026 World Cup still some way off in the distance, US Soccer has time to make the right decision. The period after the 2022 tournament has been difficult for the federation and with Ernie Stewart and Brian McBride leaving senior positions it might be wise to hire the next set of decision makers before making a decision on the head coach.

If, however, the right candidate for the job becomes available, US Soccer must have the courage in their convictions to make a move. Vieira won’t be on the market for long. He will have other offers from clubs in leagues around the world. If the Frenchman is the best option to lead the USMNT into the 2026 World Cup, there’s no point in waiting to hire him.

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