Sources: U.S. Soccer tabs Saints director as SD
U.S. soccer correspondent
- Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
ESPN Staff Writer
- Covers the Pac-12.
- Joined ESPN in 2014.
- Attended Washington State University.
Southampton director of football operations Matt Crocker is set to be tabbed as the next sporting director of the U.S. Soccer Federation, sources told ESPN.
The Athletic was the first to report the news. A formal announcement is expected this week.
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Crocker succeeds Earnie Stewart, who officially left the USSF in February to take on the director of football role at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven.
The hire opens the door for the USFF to shift its full attention to hiring a permanent head coach for the United States men’s team. At the onset of the search to replace Stewart, USSF officials said a sporting director would be in place before the next coach is hired.
In February, Crocker was involved in discussions between Southampton and Jesse Marsch about their managerial vacancy following Nathan Jones’ departure. Marsch was fired by Premier League side Leeds United on Feb. 6.
Crocker ticks a lot of boxes in terms of what the USSF wanted from a candidate, having worked in youth development at Southampton as well as aiding in the building of Southampton’s women’s team. That fits with the remit of sporting director that was laid out last month by USSF CEO JT Batson, who said the individual will remain in charge of the USSF’s national teams — all 27 of them, including youth sides — and will set out the technical vision and still oversee talent identification.
Sources told ESPN that the process was led by Batson and USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone, with board members Juan Uro and Patti Hart also involved. The process also included voices outside the USSF, including LAFC co-president John Thorrington and Washington Spirit GM Mark Krikorian.
Crocker had held his current post at Southampton since February 2020, but it was announced last December that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season. Among his tasks with Saints was overseeing the club’s overarching philosophy as it related to on-field matters, including the club’s strategy and culture.
Crocker was responsible for creating catalog of training sessions to be used at the academy level, dubbed “The SFC Playbook,” to provide a common approach as players move through the system all the way to the first team.
Prior to his current position with Southampton, Crocker spent seven years with the English FA where he was the head of development teams. He was responsible for the pathway for all England youth teams from Under-15s to Under-20s, including national coaches, team operations, player education and coach education.
Crocker was also at Southampton from 2006 to 2013, where he managed the club’s academy. During his time there, the likes of Gareth Bale, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse passed through and made it to the first team.