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Oct 5, 2012

Jill Ellis is U.S. women's interim coach

CHICAGO -- Jill Ellis will coach the U.S. women's soccer team in its next two matches while a successor is found for Pia Sundhage.

After leading the U.S. to its second straight Olympic gold medal since taking over, Sundhage stepped down Sept. 1 to return to her native Sweden. She has since been hired as coach of the Swedish women's national team.

Ellis, a former assistant to Sundhage, became development director for the U.S. women's national teams in January 2011. She is not a candidate to replace Sundhage.

The U.S. plays Germany on Oct. 20 at Bridgeview, Ill., and again three days later at East Hartford, Conn.

In addition, the U.S. Soccer Federation is meeting with potential owners and investors from 11 groups in 10 cities with the hope of launching a new women's league next year.

USSF president Sunil Gulati said there had been 25-30 inquiries to succeed Sundhage, and the search committee interviewed some candidates in Chicago on Wednesday. He hopes to select a new coach by late October or November, but said it's possible the new coach may not start until January -- especially if the coach is involved in an NCAA tournament.

Following this month's games, the Americans play Ireland in a pair of exhibitions Nov. 28 in Portland, and Dec. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.

Gulati said college, professional and international candidates were among the candidates.

"If we've got the opportunity to hire an American coach, we're going to do that if we think that's the best choice for the program," Gulati said. "Clearly an American coach brings a number of things that an international coach is unlikely to have: knowledge of the American game, knowledge of the American university system, knowledge of our youth programs, all of those things."

Sundhage, hired in 2007, was the first foreign coach of the team following Mike Ryan, Anson Dorrance, Tony DiCicco, Lauren Gregg, April Heinrichs and Greg Ryan. The U.S. won World Cups in 1991 and '99, and the last three Olympic titles plus 1996.

"An international coach may bring a different perspective and be able to add things that an American coach doesn't have," Gulati said. "But especially on the women's side, where we have a long history of success being at the top, if we can hire an American coach then that would be a great thing. Are we going to do that if we don't think the best coach to lead the team and give us the best chance of repeating our gold-medal success is not an American coach? The answer is no. But would that be the ideal situation? Absolutely."

As for the league, Women's Professional Soccer folded this year after three seasons. The Women's United Soccer Association launched for 2001 and folded after the 2003 season.

Gulati said some groups from the men's Major League Soccer were interested in launching a new women's league. The administration from United Soccer Leagues would handle the front office and the USSF might take a more active role in management and funding.

"A big part of that participation would be that the national team players would play in this league and perhaps be funded directly by U.S. Soccer," Gulati said.

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