On Nov. 14, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced Chelsea’s Emma Hayes as the replacement for Vlatko Andonovski as the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) head coach. She will take over at the conclusion of this season.
“This is a huge honor to be given the opportunity to coach the most incredible team in world football history,” Hayes said in the announcement. “The feelings and connection I have for this team and for this country run deep. I’ve dreamed about coaching the USA for a long time so to get this opportunity is a dream come true.”
During her time as Chelsea head coach, after joining them during the 2012 Women’s Super League (WSL) season, she became one of the most decorated coaches in the history of soccer.
After losing the league to Liverpool on goal difference in 2014, she went on to win six WSL titles in eight years, including each of the last four. She was named WSL Manager of the Season each of those six years, making her the only one to win the award more than once.
Hayes led Chelsea to their first-ever Women’s FA Cup triumph in 2015 after beating Notts County 1-0 in the final. She’s since won the trophy four other times, giving her the most FA Cups of any other WSL coach.
She also won Chelsea their first ever FA Women’s Continental League Cup (Conti Cup) in 2020 after a 2-1 victory over Arsenal in the final. She went on to defend the trophy in 2021.
Hayes’ Chelsea has won the “double” – FA Cup or Conti Cup in addition to a WSL title – five times, more than any other team. Additionally, she picked up the domestic treble – all three major trophies – in 2021, becoming only the second team to do so after Arsenal in 2011.
Despite having yet to win the Women’s Champions League, Hayes led Chelsea to their first-ever final in 2021. These efforts, along with the treble, led her to be recognized at the prestigious Best FIFA Football Awards, where she was named the Best FIFA Women’s Coach of 2021.
With all her success at Chelsea, Hayes became the first manager inducted into the WSL Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class of 2021.
Why the USWNT needs Hayes
With an impressive four FIFA World Cup wins, the USWNT has always been a powerhouse of soccer. In every edition of the tournament from 1991 to 2019, they breezed through their group and placed in the top three.
However, during the most recent summer’s installment, the USWNT, led by Andonovski, failed to impress. Not only did they scrape through group qualification by a single point, but they were eliminated in the first knockout round in a 5-4 penalty shootout defeat to Sweden, which confirmed their first-ever exit prior to the semi-finals.
The team showed a lack of clinical edge throughout. Despite having 84 shots with 25 on target across the four games, the team only scored four goals, averaging 0.92 goals per 90, their lowest ever at a World Cup.
Less than two weeks after being eliminated, Andonovski resigned as the head coach.
During her time at Chelsea, Hayes created one of the best attacks in the history of the WSL with 482 goals in 190 games, an average of 2.5 goals per game.
She also has an impressive track record with coaching forwards. At Chelsea, she helped bring out the best qualities in talents such as Golden Boot winner Eniola Aluko, all-time leading Chelsea goalscorer Fran Kirby, two-time Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr and popular PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year Lauren James.
She does this while maintaining an impressive defensive record, only conceding 0.83 goals per game, which is the fourth-least of every manager in the WSL.
Hayes’ ability to have a strong defensive and offensive team can be down to her tactical flexibility. According to The Coaches Voice, she played a variety of formations in her years as Chelsea manager, switching from using four defenders to three in the 2021-2022 season.
This can also be down to how she instills a dominant playing style. Between 2018 and 2023, Chelsea averaged at least 57% possession consistently, according to the Coaches Voice.
Hayes is known to take a more personable approach to coaching her players. She reportedly made a great impression on the USWNT players during a meeting at the most recent camp.
“I’m really excited for this team to be able to meet her, to get to know her,” Chelsea and USWNT forward Mia Fishel said according to The Athletic. “She’s an amazing person, amazing coach. She’s very funny.”
“She has a good balance between being serious and being light-hearted,” Fishel said.
On her serious side, Hayes has a strict “no excuses” policy when it comes to poor performances from her players. She told The Coaches Voice that she’ll always ask players if they need clarification.
“I’ve found that that has really really improved driving performance, because then it’s putting the responsibility back on the player,” Hayes said.
Hayes still expresses the need for coaches to also look to themselves to make sure they’ve provided all the tools necessary before a game.
“The only way you can hold them accountable is have you [the coach] done your job? That’s what I’ll always say to my staff is after every game we have to get our mirrors out and we have to say ‘what could we have done better?’ And we have to be honest about that,” Hayes told the Coaches’ Voice.
Hayes will begin her reign as the new USWNT head coach before this summer’s Olympic Games.