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Report: Chelsea FC’s Emma Hayes new coach of US women’s national soccer team

Chelsea announced Emma Hayes, shown in 2021, will leave the defending Women's Super League champion at the end of the season, but didn't specify where she was headed.Martin Meissner/Associated Press

The US women’s national soccer team has turned to Emma Hayes, a longtime English coach, to improve its fortunes after the worst World Cup performance in the program’s acclaimed history.

Hayes, who has guided Chelsea to four consecutive Women’s Super League championships, agreed to a long-term contract and is awaiting approval from the US Soccer Federation’s board of directors, four people familiar with the deal said Saturday. An emergency board meeting was called, one person said.

The US players were informed of the decision Saturday, two people familiar with the situation said. The USSF declined to comment.

Chelsea announced Saturday that Hayes would depart the club at the end of the season ‘’to pursue a new opportunity outside of the WSL and club football.’’ It did not specify her next job. In the announcement, Hayes did not comment on her future.

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Chelsea’s season, however, does not end until May, a timetable that conflicts with the US team’s preparations for the Paris Olympics in July and August. It is unclear how the arrangement will work over the next six months, during which time the Americans will have three training camps and several matches, including the regional championship, known as the Concacaf W Gold Cup, in early 2024.

In the email to the players, the USSF said Hayes would oversee the four tuneups between late May and early July leading up to the Olympics, one person said.

Hayes’s potential salary is unclear. Some board members could demand the USSF pay Hayes the same as men’s coach Gregg Berhalter, whose $1.6 million salary dwarfed that of the former women’s coach, Vlatko Andonovski (about $450,000). While the women’s players have successfully earned equal pay and working conditions as the men, the enormous gap in coaching salaries has remained.

The Equalizer and Backheeled reported early Saturday that the USSF was planning to hire Hayes.

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Andonovski stepped down as coach following the team’s round-of-16 defeat to Sweden this summer at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Never before had the four-time champions failed to qualify for the semifinals. The US team also failed to win the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, settling for bronze after a semifinal defeat to Canada.

Hayes, 47, will inherit a team in transition following the retirements of Megan Rapinoe and Julie Ertz, the phasing out of other veterans and the rise of young players such as Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith and Alyssa Thompson. Two others, Catarina Macario and Mia Fishel, play for Hayes at Chelsea.

The next US camp is ahead of friendlies against China on Dec. 2 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Dec. 5 in Frisco, Tex.

Hayes does have ties to American soccer. She coached the Long Island Lady Riders from 2001 to 2003, followed by a three-year stint at Iona College. After three years as an Arsenal assistant, she guided the Chicago Red Stars for two seasons in Women’s Professional Soccer, the precursor to the National Women’s Soccer League.

Since 2012, Hayes has coached Chelsea to six WSL titles and five FA Cup trophies. In 2021, she was voted FIFA’s world coach of the year. Her record with Chelsea is 236-58-39.

“Emma has been one of the biggest drivers of change in women’s football,’’ Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said in a statement. “Her achievements at Chelsea are unrivalled and will live in the club’s history forever.’’

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They added, “Given everything she has contributed to Chelsea in over a decade with the club, and the legacy she leaves behind, we would never stand in her way when she felt it was the right time to pursue a new challenge.’’

Todd Boehly, Chelsea’s American owner, said in a statement: “Emma’s contribution to Chelsea cannot be understated. She has been a pioneer in women’s football and is hugely respected within the game.’’