Santana’s roommate at the time, Danielle Egan, later married Claudio Reyna, a leading American player. Later, Berhalter and Reyna were World Cup teammates in 2002 and 2006; at both tournaments, Reyna was the US captain. In 2021, while working as an executive for the MLS club Austin FC, Reyna acquired the Berhalters’ son, Sebastian, for that season. When it ended, Reyna declined to keep him on the team. The Reynas also have a soccer son, Gio, who was expected to be a major contributor for the United States at the World Cup but played just 52 minutes. Berhalter’s sporadic use of Reyna, which generated critical commentary, looked suspiciously personal.

After the World Cup, Danielle Reyna told US Soccer about Berhalter’s college battle with Santana. All discussions about extending Berhalter’s expired contract had to be put on hold for an investigation to be carried out. It was hard not to see the whole sordid episode as a microcosm of the federation: common interests undermined by feuds and rivalries — “some of which,” Cone says, “existed before I was born.”

Berhalter, who has been outspoken and remorseful about the decades-old incident, was cleared in March. That meant only that he could again be a candidate for the position. In June, after an extensive search — characterized as data-driven by the federation — and a six-month stretch without a permanent coach, Berhalter was rehired. That struck many observers as preposterous, or worse — “fake and an embarrassment,” as ESPN’s Craig Burley put it.

However, many American fans are optimistic about how the American men will fare at the 2026 World Cup, much of which will be held in the United States. The U.S. team hasn’t reached the quarterfinal round since 2002, yet it’s not unusual to hear commentators say that nothing short of a semifinal will qualify as success. It should be noted that the tenure of the president of US Soccer before Cordeiro ended due to a disappointing result of the American men. After a loss to tiny Trinidad and Tobago caused the team to miss the 2018 World Cup, Sunil Gulati, an economist who led the federation for more than a decade, announced he would not seek re-election. Cone did not employ Berhalter directly, but her fortunes are now at least partially intertwined with his.

This April, the men played an exhibition match against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz. Before the game, Cone, who flew to support them, met with current and prospective sponsors in a restaurant near the stadium. Later, she did a breezy interview on Telemundo, just news that she saved for the occasion: The United States and Mexico have submitted a joint bid to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup. During halftime, she led a group of federal executives down the run to the Mexico series for an exchange of gifts, which is common at international games.

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