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LOS ANGELES:  United States coach Gregg Berhalter has been fired following his team’s disastrous first-round exit at the Copa America, the United States Soccer Federation announced on Wednesday.

The USSF said in a statement that the 50-year-old former US international, who was only brought back to manage the team last year, had been relieved of his duties “effective immediately.”

“We are deeply grateful to Gregg for his commitment the past five years to the Men’s National Team and to US Soccer,” said US Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker.

“Gregg has earned the respect of everyone within our organization and has played a pivotal role in bringing together a young team and moving the program forward.

“We wish Gregg all the best in his future endeavours, and we know he will find success in his next coaching position.”

Berhalter’s dismissal comes after his team were eliminated from the Copa America in the group stage after defeats to Panama and Uruguay following an opening win over Bolivia.

That early exit — the first time in history a Copa America host nation has been knocked out in the first round — triggered widespread calls from former players, pundits and fans for Berhalter to be dismissed.

The sacking comes just two years before the United States co-hosts the World Cup with Canada and Mexico in 2026, a tournament which is viewed in the US as a golden opportunity to widen soccer’s appeal.

Crocker said the search for Berhalter’s replacement was already under way.

“Our immediate focus is on finding a coach who can maximize our potential as we continue to prepare for the 2026 World Cup, and we have already begun our search process,” Crocker said.

Berhalter had faced relentless skepticism since he was first appointed as US coach six years ago in the wake of the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Although he enjoyed respectable results in regional competitions — winning the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League in 2021 before adding the Gold Cup in the same year — his results against top tier nations remained poor.

He helped the team qualify for the 2022 World Cup, where they were eliminated in the knockout rounds by the Netherlands after emerging from a first phase group that included England, Wales and Iran.

However his future as US coach was plunged into uncertainty in the wake of the Qatar World Cup, when an ugly feud with the family of midfielder Gio Reyna exploded into public view.

Berhalter’s contract, which expired in December 2022, was not automatically renewed.

The United States Soccer Federation meanwhile conducted an investigation into a 1992 allegation of domestic violence by Berhalter against his then girlfriend, now wife.

He was subsequently cleared and then, following a much-touted global search for coaching candidates, reappointed to his old job in June 2023.

That decision was widely viewed as unimaginative and underwhelming by swathes of US fans, who have consistently demanded Berhalter be replaced.

The pressure on the US coach was amplified by the team’s failure to mount a serious challenge at the Copa America, while at the same time, another American coach, Jesse Marsch, took Canada to the semifinals.

Berhalter meanwhile had insisted he was the right man to lead the US at the 2026 World Cup following last week’s Copa demise while admitting performances at the tournament had not been good enough.

“I think collectively the staff, the players, the sporting department, we need to look at where do we improve? How do we do better?” Berhalter said.

“It’s not the aspirations that we have as a group. We know it’s a talented team with big potential and we didn’t show it in this tournament.”

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