USWNT shakeup continues with GM Markgraf exit

The U.S. women’s national team‘s leadership shakeup will continue with general manager Kate Markgraf set to leave her role at the end of this month, the U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed Friday.

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Markgraf’s contract expires at the end of August and the USSF said she would “provide support through the end of the month to assist in the transition.”

Sources told ESPN that her decision not to return was made prior to the Women’s World Cup.

The news that Markgraf, 46, will depart came a day after manager Vlatko Andonovski resigned.

“Kate has been an instrumental part of Women’s National Team both on and off the field for many years, and we’re very thankful for the tireless work she has given to the USWNT and all our Youth National Teams,” U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker said.

“We wish her all the best in her future endeavors and look forward to building on the foundation she helped establish over the past several years.”

The Americans were eliminated in the round of 16 by Sweden via a penalty shootout, though conversations continued with U.S. Soccer about Markgraf possibly staying. The World Cup exit was the earliest in U.S. team history and appeared to seal her decision.

“It has been an incredible honor to work with the players, coaches and staff at U.S. Soccer on the mission of keeping our program at the top of the women’s game,” Markgraf said.

“I am proud of the foundation we have built, and even more proud of the character and commitment demonstrated by our players as they represent the United States on and off the field. I look forward to supporting all of our programs and have every confidence that we will maintain our standards of excellence moving forward.”

Markgraf was the first person U.S. Soccer appointed to the position of general manager of the team in 2019, and her first decision was the hiring of Andonovski. That was followed by two substandard performances in major tournaments, starting with a bronze medal finish at the Tokyo Olympics.

In an interview with ESPN prior to the World Cup, Markgraf said that, while she didn’t explicitly tell Andonovski which players to take to the tournament, she had a part in shaping the roster. Andonovski confirmed that was the case.

“We have to make so many tough decisions in different times, whether it’s on the field or off the field,” Andonovski said prior to the tournament. “But the questions that [Markgraf] is posing is in such a professional and respectful way, help us think deeper, help us think different, outside of the box, and in a way prepare ourself for even more stressful moments and be ready for it.”

It is unclear if the GM position will continue going forward.

“We are grateful to Kate for the tremendous work she has done in helping guide our Women’s National Team and the transformative work on our youth Women’s National Team programs,” U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said.

“Her knowledge and experience have been incredibly valuable, and we are poised to build on that foundation as we look to the future.”

In announcing Andonovski’s resignation, the federation reiterated that Crocker had already started an in-depth analysis of the women’s national team program and would develop a long-term strategy “to ensure U.S. Soccer can continue its success on the women’s side of the game. The comprehensive approach will establish the operational roadmap that will guide the women’s program forward.”

Markgraf was a decorated player for the U.S. team, making 201 appearances and being part of the 1999 side that won the Women’s World Cup as well as gold medal-winning squads at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Following her playing career, she earned master’s degrees in kinesiology and educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She also worked as a broadcaster for ESPN.

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