Rongen out as U.S. U-20 coach


Photo by Omar Martinez/

For Thomas Rongen, the failure to guide the United States Under-20 national team to World Cup qualification has cost him his job as head coach.

Rongen has been relieved of his head coaching duties for the U-20s, sources told SBI on Thursday. The U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed that while he is no longer coach of the team, Rongen is still under contract with U.S. Soccer and could still work with the federation in another capacity.

Rongen, who has drawn praise for his ability to locate and attract multi-national players with American eligibility, is ultimately the fall guy for the U-20s' inability to get through CONCACAF qualifying. The team lost to qualifying host Guatemala, 2-1, in last month's do-or-die regional quarterfinal with a group deemed by many to be the deepest, most talented U-20 team the country has ever had. The United States had qualified for the last seven U-20 World Cups and last missed out on the international event in 1995.

Rongen had been at the helm of the U-20s since 2001. Tab Ramos will guide the team on its upcoming trip to France, but he has not been named an interim coach. The USSF will conduct a search for Rongen's replacement.

What do you think about this development? Who do you think should be the next U.S. U-20 coach?

Share your thoughts below.

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93 Responses to Rongen out as U.S. U-20 coach

  1. Travis says:

    It was time for this to happen, he had been around for 10 years which is to long. Not really sure who should take over though

  2. DEAC says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for Neven Subotic.

  3. Smacking says:

    Agreed. I do think he has skills that could benefit the organization outside of coaching the u-20’s, but it’s time to move on.

    Let the wild speculation begin on his replacement.

  4. Al_OC says:

    He’s been in charged for 10 years, it’s time for a coaching change.

    But, maybe a technical director position will suit him better.

  5. CA says:

    It’s the right decision. The entire US Nat coaching staff needs a shakeup from the very bottom on up to the top.

  6. jonk says:

    Ahh, nothing like some irrationality to start my day off right!

  7. Michael Vann says:

    I love Rongen. I love his ability to find talent and put them in a position to build their career. However, for whatever reason, he could never seem to get his teams, at any level he coached, over the hump. They all become stagnant. They become too complacent. Rongen should applauded for his contribution to the U-20’s and USSF in general. He’s been a loyal servant and has really done a good job. But like anything the course has been run and it’s time for a change. Rongen will land on his feet. He’ll pop up with a job shortly. I wouldn’t be a surprised to see a MLS club, wanting to really kick their youth academy into high gear, giving him a buzz.

  8. Michael Vann says:

    I love Rongen. I love his ability to find talent and put them in a position to build their career. However, for whatever reason, he could never seem to get his teams, at any level he coached, over the hump. They all become stagnant. They become too complacent. Rongen should applauded for his contribution to the U-20’s and USSF in general. He’s been a loyal servant and has really done a good job. But like anything the course has been run and it’s time for a change. Rongen will land on his feet. He’ll pop up with a job shortly. I wouldn’t be a surprised to see a MLS club, wanting to really kick their youth academy into high gear, giving him a buzz.

  9. Primoone says:

    Keep Wilmer Cabrera and Bob “Bradley Junior” (Mike Sorber) away from our U-20’s.

  10. jonk says:

    So you’d prefer Wilmer Cabrera continue at the U-17 level where he undoubtedly has more of an impact on their development? Personally, I agree as I think Wilmer is doing a great job and I think he should stay with the U17s.

  11. readte12 says:

    He may have botched that situation, but he did reel in some other great young players during his tenure.

  12. Jeremy says:

    It’s a complete crapshoot going for U20 talent. We missed Subotic, but we’ve also gained a lot of young players with dual nationality lately. We probably won’t know for five years if any of them pan out, but it’s near impossible to tell what athletes will be superstars versus which ones just developed fast and will max out at 20.

  13. Jeremy says:

    Could Caleb Porter be lured away from Akron?

  14. CR says:

    His recruiting has been fantastic, and he has been a coach loyal to the cause, but it was time to move on. A US U-20 team full of professionals playing in Euope, Mexico, and the MLS shouldn’t lose to the Guatemala U-20s.

  15. SuperChivo says:

    Well said, the guy has done well with identifying talent players and I feel certain that he will soon have another position, perhaps with an MLS club, in which he will continue to grow US soccer. At the same time, 10 years is a good run and giving another guy a shot isn’t a bad move.

  16. Thorpinski says:


    So it appears that USSF puts a premium on winning.

  17. Felix says:

    This was a good move. Rongen is a good recruiter and would be better served as a scout or as a technical director. As a motivator of talent and an actual in-game coach – I always thought he was poor.
    I still blame him for the Subotic debacle, and he should have done more with the ’07 and ’11 U-20s.
    But he should remain with US Soccer for his eye in finding and recruiting good multi-nationals with American eligibility.

  18. Tony in Quakeland says:


  19. Thorpinski says:

    Just throwing this out there but why do we asume that he was a great recruiter? The overwhelming majority of these players were well knwon to begin with. Granted the players liked him and spoke favorably regarding his playing style, but in the end players who decide to play for our U-20’s are doing so for a chance to play for the USMNT. I personally like TR but believe 10 years is enough.

  20. Villain-from-Texas says:

    Not now, and certainly not to manage the U20s.

  21. Alex says:

    I think in actual player development, USSF should not and does not put a priority on winning with its development academy system. However, this is the national team. Development does not happen at the national team level. The team isn’t around each other enough to make the U20s a viable “development” squad. Development happens with their clubs. The goal of the U20 national team is to qualify for the U20 World Cup and get these kids the kind of quality international competition they need to a) get to an even better club/development situation (look at where Rowe or Ibeagha could have gone if they made it to the WC) b) prepare players for senior national team. In those aspects, Rongen failed. He got the multi-national to sign on, but is that going to be harder to do if he cannot GUARANTEE a World Cup? UEFA U20 WC qualification is ridiculous difficult (look at who was left out this year), so the US’ big draw, I’ll bet, is that they WERE always going to be a WC competitor at U20 level. Now… not so much. And that’s Rongen’s fault.

    Keep Rongen as talent scout or TD. Get a better game-day coach. We need a Lyon-style system where the talent ID level is maintained and maybe even the playing style, which players seem to be drawn to, but the actual coaching when it comes to the tournaments is a revolving door.

  22. StevenG says:

    lol Subotic was a mercenary. The guy never intended to play for the US in the first place.

  23. AJ says:

    Hopefully there’s a technical director type role available for him. Subotic issue aside, he seems to have come great contacts in Europe that have helped the US find some dual nationals to play for us. Would be great to see him in a recruiting and scouting role.

  24. StevenG says:


  25. KillerInstinct says:

    If we all recall, Cabrera kept Agudelo on the bench, while playing other players who haven’t gone to the next level yet…his scouting ability sucks and he tends to create his whole offense around Guido….and Guido is not that good

  26. Carl says:

    Best news of the year. Rongen has been awful for years BOTH in results and player development.

    Second the Caleb Porter recommendation.

  27. Alex says:


    I really don’t think you know the difference between the 09 and the 11 squads. It was between these years that Rongen really shined as a recruiter

    09 was a bunch of college and MLS kids. 11 had guys like Hurzeler, Salgado, Ruelas, Cropper, Gyau (almost left the system), Lletget (almost didn’t join the system thanks to fights with USSF over not joining Bradenton at u17 level), Zahavi who all were dual-nationals and had to be convinced, and many openly state that they were lobbied by Rongen. They said Rongen himself, his playing style, and what he said about the US program made them commit.

    I doubt you heard of many of the people, period, that Rongen pulled out of Europe before there were rumors of them joining the player pool.

  28. chris says:

    Change is good

  29. irant_irave says:

    Ramos is good.

  30. Oranje says:

    Errrrrrr….you just named a bunch of players most of whom weren’t on the roster or didn’t get off the bench in qualifying. So yeah, I guess he’s a great recuriter of dual nationals that aren’t good enough to break his own starting XI.

  31. Oranje says:

    Won’t happen. He makes 3 times as much as Akron’s coach and actually has a chance to coach…the U20 job gets about 30 days of coaching in a year.

  32. Eurosnob says:

    I believe that Claudio Reyna is the technical director.

  33. Alex says:

    Hurzeler – out for exams (if you know anything about Euro education, you know that this is important if, knock on wood, something happens to his player career – he abosulutely could have played for this team), Cropper – only 17 and playing for Ipswich reserves, Salgado – played for this years U20 despite being 17, Ruelas – absolutely shredding at reserve level in Mexico and almost signed for Celtic (now rumored to be considering switching back to Mexico), Lletget – were you watching this year’s U20s? he was one of if not the best players on the field.


  34. Alex says:

    Let’s keep this in mind:

    link to

    link to

    It was after 2009 that Rongen made the push for overseas recruitment. Look at the results.

    Who knows what players Rongen was planning to have commit to the US. That’s the real loss. Of course, I was disappointed by his game-day “coaching” and I feel we need an actual coach to replace him. But his talent recruitment strategy cannot be cast off.

  35. Warren says:

    Yeah it was so hard to tell if Subotic was any good…that he was starting in Bundesliga months after being dissed by Rongen.

    Sorry, if you can’t tell young superstar from young crapshoot player, you should not be selecting U20 players.

    To be fair to Rongen, in general he has been good scout of dual national talent, but clearly should not have been making final call on team selection; nor on tactics.

    But aside from that, best of luck to Rongen and hopefully he will not mind a stint strictly as dual national talent scout, where i agree he has done reasonable well.

  36. Warren says:


  37. Warren says:

    yeah, better to disss the mercenary than get the services of the star who knows he is a star.

    This isn’t little league, we are talking (junior) national team; they don’t need to be the nicest guys off the field just the best guys on the field.

  38. Warren says:

    for some reason like…he is not a good coach?

  39. Matt C in Tampa says:

    Reyna or Ramos. Give one of them a shot.

  40. Thorpinski says:

    Actually I knew most of players and one of his biggest hauls was Zahavi who in the end is not playing for us. Gyau and Lletget contrary to public belief were never going elsewhere. Subotic was never going to play for us either.

    Again I believe Rongen was great with the players and worked hard at scouting players, (which by the way) is / was his job.

    I would be shocked if his replacement didn’t travel around the world and scout players and offer them the chance to play for the US.

  41. Alex says:

    Like Conor Doyle, who almost played for Ireland. Or Lletget with Italy. Or Gyau. Or Hernandez.

    The qualifying roster was that, qualifying. I am sure you’d have seen different player had they MADE it to the World Cup.

    I am just saying a lot of these players almost left the program, if not for Rongen and his style, as they have stated.

  42. Jacob says:

    He just signed an extension at Akron through 2020. That being said, if I wasn’t an Akron student/fan I would love to see Porter coaching the U20s. I think he could do some amazing things for the USA youth. The style and precision he brings to the game is incredible.

  43. vik says:

    I wouldn’t mind another dutch coach to take over. Maybe Jurgen Klinsmann could take the job, if he’s not still under contract for TFC.

    I also wouldn’t mind seeing an Italian coach brought in. Whatever exposes the kids to as many different ideas as possible.

  44. Seriously says:

    Dude stuff it already. We get it, you don’t like Rongen.

  45. vik says:

    Porter does more for the US/MLS pipeline as Akron’s coach than coach of the U-20’s. Porter can really mold and improve player technique as college coach, whereas the U-20’s coach only really gets limited time with his players. It’s better for everyone if Porter stays at Akron.

  46. Alex says:

    Another thing: Rongen was the guy who really started the push to get MFL young players/reservists to see the US as real option rather than just FMF. That is a sustainable source of talent now (the MFL reserves players with US heritage), and Rongen started it.

  47. Alex says:

    link to

    Little does everyone who questions Rongen’s recruitment strategy know that he recruited or identified many SBI favorites like Diskeruud, Dempsey, Davies, Sean Johnson that weren’t big names until he sought them out.

  48. Alex says:

    Klinsmann I think would be loath to leave his consulting firm behind, especially after rubes like TFC tell them to overall their entire organization just for more defeats. :)

  49. Jason says:

    Exactly, there is a place in the Federation for him as a talent scout. But it is time for some new blood in the coaching ranks.

  50. yankbackhome says:

    It’s about time.

  51. Maybe that is his value. He can identify talent. He is having a hard time coaching it.

  52. fischy says:

    I agree.

  53. Felix says:

    Subotic was playing for us until Rongen’s stupid insensitive comments pushed him out.

    To me that was Rongen’s biggest error.

  54. Primoone says:

    That was my line of reasoning jonk…however, wasn’t it Wilmer that was upset that Joe and Renkin departed from the U-17 because they chose to be developed by Hoffenhiem as opposed to Bradenton? As a result they were pretty much excommunicated from the U-17s? However, Gyau is clearly ahead of the curve in development with respect to tactical awareness, first touch and overall football IQ.

    Yeah, your right…we need more vindictive coaches in the USSF to discourage our young and talented players from going over-seas at a young age and developing an elite player.

  55. You are correct.

    He just published his vision for US Soccer. Quite interesting body of work that mimics Brazil more than Europe (Yay!)

    (Interesting, it compares to the Brazilian curriculum of Tadeo Gonsalves of Bfut in Boca Raton)

    It is available at US Soccer.

    If you are a coach, check it out. He is advocating a 4-4-2 with a diamond. The emphasis on offense and ball movement.

  56. Nick says:

    I don’t think that was the situation with Gyau and Renken. Renken had two major knee injuries during that time and Gyau had a bit of an attitude problem when he was younger.

  57. elf says:


  58. Erik says:

    + infinity

  59. Eurosnob says:

    Paul, thanks for the info, I’ll definitely check it out.

  60. korey says:

    McBride or Reyna.

  61. Oranje says:

    Hahaha so someone can hashtag #fail but I can’t point out how that person failed? Interesting moderation system you guys have going on.

  62. Fred says:

    McBride, Ramos, Reyna, Barlow, Masur, or Mckeown

  63. MC Pharaoh says:

    its interesting because I know him personally, but I have never really thought he was the right man for that job. He didnt qualify the team for the next world cup, missed a player like subotic, & botched a few chances to win the u-20 world cup… he is an intelligent guy but hes had the job 10 years i believe. since he lost the job, he will probly be back to Florida soon & I will see him (;

  64. soccerroo says:

    Why? What makes you think that one of them will do as good or a better job then Rongen? I thought maybe some like Oscar Pareja, He is FC Dallas Academy and reserve team coach. He worked with Wilmer Cabrera at the U-17 level. Or some one like that.

  65. Hood Rich says:

    Hope Banality Bob is next!

  66. Josh D says:

    Disagree. The u-17 coach has been doing quite well and has them playing very nice soccer.

    But u20 and Bradley – agree.

  67. Thorpinski says:

    It as eiter a week or two later that Subotic was invited to the NT and turned them down. I mean reallywhat more do you need to know about his motives.

  68. Thorpinski says:

    lol… at least your post shows that it was removed by the moderator. My post was completely removed as if it was never posted,(as if the Navy Seal Team 6 were called into action to monitored my responses)

  69. M says:

    Good, maybe now we can field teams that look homogeneous like Spain and Italy instead of low IQ African mercenaries

  70. Goalscorer24 says:

    It was way past time for this to happen.

  71. elpool009 says:

    Caleb Porter, please.

  72. AJ says:

    I wasn’t suggesting a specific role as much as retaining him in an off the field role. I might have to check out Reyna’s report though, sounds interesting.

  73. Buckwheat says:

    He was bad when he was the coach for DC United. The only reason DC went played well was because Dave Sarachan was still in charge of the training; and the carry over from when Arena was coach. When Sarachan left to follow Arena, the team stunk for several years.

  74. Zoti says:

    Excellent idea. Finally we can have the perfect “homogeneous melting pot” team.

  75. Juan from L.A. says:

    Who is the best assistant coach in MLS? Or up and coming guy…my vote would be for Curt Onalfo and/or Octavio Zambrano. Onalfo is younger but both are experienced, know American style of soccer and would be a good fit in the US program.

    In regards to Rongen I saw it coming. I emailed Sunil and luckily got an email back (which was surprising) and he said I’ll wait til the storm is settle to analyze and then act in such manner. Good way of thought. Wouldn’t mind if he stayed in some capacity to oversee the scouting talent program and aid both the U-20 and U-17 program in that manner only. But definitely the guy as a coach sucks.

  76. abc says:

    Wow really, “low IQ African mercenaries”?

  77. jlm says:

    Jurgen makes sense

  78. Juan from L.A. says:

    Also I don’t see it for the calling of Porter. For God’s sake one good season in college soccer. Need I remind you guys that college soccer is overrated with the unlimited substitutions and timeouts. C’mon now, this job as U-20 should go to a proven coach in professional environment. Look up and I have put out names of assistants out there who can be given a call.

  79. MensreaJim says:

    Am I somehow misreading this, or is this the craziest comment ever?

  80. Hermano says:

    This is a horrible development. It’s a knee jerk reaction spurred on by the instant-gratification, fast food culture that pervades everything about US Soccer. Rongen was instrumental in identifying and cultivating talent that would’ve slipped through the cracks. Timothy Chandler – he’s Rongen’s guy. Abossomunde? Rongen. The list goes on and on…

  81. Robinswood says:

    and it’s utterly unlikely that someone…. anyone might have a similar ability to identify and draw that same talent? Rongen didn’t do this alone, there was an entire team of scouts and administrators who are a part of this process. He’s served us well, mostly, but it’s definitely time for some new blood.

  82. Hermano says:

    Klinsmann wouldn’t take the full USMNT job – how on earth is he going to be interested by the U20 position???

  83. RangerSG says:

    He turned it down because he felt Rongen personally snubbed him.

    And rightly so.

  84. RangerSG says:

    Klinsmann didn’t take the full Nats because idiot Gulati wouldn’t give full control to the guy who would take the fall for the results.

    But no, his ego won’t let him go to the U-20. It’s full Nats, on his terms, or nothing.

  85. RangerSG says:

    Then keep him as a scout. Because as a coach, he is and always has been rubbish.

  86. jpc says:

    to be fair though, what do you know of his tactics? really? sometimes tactics loses you games, most times its talent and desire.

  87. marco says:

    If you read his assessment of Subotic, and look at the players he said were better, you must question his ability to evaluate talent. When he imposes loyalty standards that exceed FIFA requirements, you must question his fairness.

  88. bottlcaps says:

    Rongen was not a good match for a U-20 environment. Although he apparently has an outstanding ability to identify talent, and a somewhat good but limited tactical sense, he failed to match a players ability to sound strategic organization.

    The US thoroughly outplayed Guatamala, but failed to convert their opportunities, as there was insufficient attacking midfield support. More often than not the players made many mistakes in not waiting for support, but rather decided to take on players one-on-one. Rongen also must have decided to not let any defensive midfielders or backs come up in attack on any consistent basis.

    In short it was an inadequate strategy.

    He should have been gone years before, when the U-20’s were let out early in other WC endeavors.

    I would really like to see a foreign coach with no ties to the USSF or MLS take the reigns. They are out there but I doubt the Gulati & the USSF will look very Hard.

    Klinsmann was right on target when he refused to take the USMNT job without getting control of the youth infrastructure. Maybe now the USSF will dismiss Bradley and bring him in.

  89. Hermano, I think you just made the point most people are making. Rongen is an excellent scout of talent, and I fully agree he should be kept on in a similar capacity. It seems the US is taking the German way of thinking where they pressure their youth teams to win so they develop that winning attitude and adjust to the pressure prior to getting to the full mens team. Rongen was not getting results and the fact he had strong teams means its easier to change the coach than the team.

  90. Matt C in Tampa says:

    A. Because they are American. B. Because they didn’t play like the traditional American…ie…running fast everywhere. C. they are not part of the establishment/re-treads. D. They’ve been there. E. Their games were based on skill, possession, calmness on the ball and attacking.

  91. knolljus says:

    It seems that you don’t pay much attention to college soccer, the substitions are limited by the fact that you cannot re-enter the game in the same half. Caleb Porter has made Akron into a powerhouse, and has been there since 06 after studying under Jerry Yeagley at his alma mater. Look at the production that Houston is getting from Will Bruin, across the MLS there are a ton of young ex-college players that are making an early impact.

  92. Goalscorer24 says:

    Remember the quote from Gale Agbossoumonde on what Rognen had told them during U20 qualification. “The toughest team you will play will be our b team.”

    Just for that he should have been fired. You never underestimate the opponent!