Twila Kilgore named interim U.S. women’s soccer coach

U.S. Soccer thanked Vlatko Andonovski for his four years of service, then named his interim replacement after accepting Andonovski’s resignation as coach of the women’s national team Thursday. The moves come less than two weeks after the U.S. was eliminated from the World Cup in the round of 16, the team’s earliest exit from a tournament it has won four times.

“We want to extend our deepest gratitude to Vlatko for his dedication to the women’s national team,” U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said in a statement. “We know he will continue to contribute to the growth of the women’s game in the United States and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Twila Kilgore will serve the team’s temporary head coach as U.S. Soccer begins the search for a permanent replacement. Kilgore (formerly Kaufman) served as an assistant coach for the past year and a half, and in 2021 became the first American-born woman to earn U.S. Soccer’s Pro Coaching License. Kilgore spent 2½ years as an assistant coach with the Houston Dash and 15 years in the college game as a head coach and an assistant coach at UC Davis and Pepperdine.

The U.S., which has already qualified for next summer’s Paris Olympics, will begin preparations for that tournament with a pair of friendlies next month.

Andonovski, who won two NWSL championships as coach of FC Kansas City, took over after the U.S. team in fall 2019, just months after the U.S. had won its second consecutive World Cup under Jill Ellis. And though he went 51-5-9 over four years, two of those losses came in the Tokyo Olympics where the U.S. settled for a bronze medal. The U.S. won just once in four tries at this summer’s World Cup before being eliminated by Sweden on penalty kicks.

“It’s been the honor of my life to coach the talented, hard-working players of the USWNT for the past four years,” Andonovski said in a statement released by U.S. Soccer. “I’m very optimistic for the future of this program, especially considering all the young players that got opportunities over the past few years who will no doubt be leaders and impact players moving forward.

“While we are all disappointed by the outcome at this year’s World Cup, I am immensely proud of the progress this team has made, the support they’ve shown for each other, and the inspiration they’ve provided for players around the world. I will be forever thankful to the U.S. Soccer Federation for giving me the chance to coach this remarkable team.”

The federation hasn’t tipped its hand on a possible successor, but the chance to coach the four-time World Cup champion U.S. team, historically the most successful and best-funded in women’s soccer, will draw a long list of applicants. Among the most attractive candidates is England coach Sarina Wiegman, who took the Lionesses to a European championship last year and has them in the World Cup final this year. However, she is under contract to England, and should she want to leave, buying her out is likely to be difficult and expensive.

Other options include OL Reign coach Laura Harvey, a three-time NWSL coach of the year who narrowly lost to Andonovski in the coaching search four years ago, and Australian manager Tony Gustavsson, a U.S. assistant under both Ellis and Pia Sundhage. Gustavsson guided the Matildas to the semifinals of this summer’s World Cup at home and is under contract with the team through the Paris Olympics.

“Vlatko worked tirelessly for this team and has been a strong and positive leader for our women’s program. We’re grateful for everything he has contributed,” said U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker, who will lead the search for a new coach. “It’s imperative that we continue to evolve and innovate, and we are excited about the path that lies ahead.”