The United States Men's National Team continued their rebuilding process on Friday by announcing that the team's fifth all-time leading scorer, Brian McBride, has been hired as the new General Manager.
McBride, 47, takes over for Earnie Stewart, who was promoted to Sporting Director in late 2019. The Illinois native appeared 95 times for the USA during his international career, scoring an impressive 30 times, including once in the 1998 World Cup and twice in the 2002 World Cup.
“We are thrilled to have Brian McBride assume the role as General Manager of the U.S. Men’s National Team,” Stewart said in a press release. He continued,
“Through his impressive career as a three-time World Cup veteran and at clubs in England, Germany and the United States, he has earned the respect of his peers around the world. The hard-earned reputation will allow him to forge important relationships both internationally and here at home, and his understanding of the game and what it takes to succeed at the highest levels will be invaluable to our player pool and our staff.”
If that doesn't help you understand exactly what McBride will be doing, you aren't alone. Other than hiring head coaches, it was unclear what Stewart's job description was as GM before he was elevated. Will McBride be guiding Gregg Berhalter and the youth coaches on player selection? Will the former striker be responsible for creating a cohesive structure and playing style throughout the age ranks? Will he shore up USMNT scouting and outreach amongst youth players, changing USSF's much-maligned approach?
Despite the ambiguity, Stewart's quote does hit on a crucial point. McBride has mutually-respected relationships with clubs, coaches, and players across the globe at the pinnacle of the game. His ability to unlock opportunities for US youth players, learn and discover new approaches to national team setups, and simply make others pay that much more attention to the growth of the game in the US could be invaluable. That, at least, is the hope.
But we all know that hope is a dangerous friend. Failing to make the 2018 World Cup hit U.S. Soccer's men's program extremely hard. Since that catastrophic failure, the federation has implemented numerous changes in an attempt to recapture their place near the top of Concacaf and, hopefully, make the USMNT competitive on the world stage. Bringing back legendary players like Stewart and McBride from the glory days appears to be a big piece of that strategic rebuild, but despite these major changes, progress has been seemingly fraught at times both on and off the field.
McBride retired from professional soccer in 2010. Since his departure, he's taken on several different roles and projects within the sport. He's been active in the media, serving as a TV analyst for networks such as FOX Sports and ESPN. He's also been a part of several youth soccer endeavors including founding his own soccer academy.
Can the all-time great striker help bring the USMNT back to prominence? Only time will tell, but having someone in power who understands what it takes for the program to succeed can't hurt.