Jill Ellis has been named the U.S. national team coach in the run-up to the women's World Cup next summer in Canada and beyond.
Ellis has been the interim coach since Tom Sermanni was surprisingly dismissed in early April after an exhibition victory against China. It was Ellis' second stint as an interim coach with the team; she also took over when previous head coach Pia Sundhage resigned in 2012 to become head coach of Sweden's national team. Ellis has a 6-0-3 record overall as the team's interim coach.
Ellis was an assistant to both Sermanni and Sundhage. She was on the staff of the gold medal-winning U.S. teams at the Beijing and London Olympics. The 47-year-old coach, who is well respected among national team players, has had a lengthy coaching career, including 12 seasons at UCLA.
"Not beating around the bush, I know the expectation, embrace the expectation," Ellis said Friday. "I know that we want to win, and I think this group is capable of winning. That's what we want, it is always the expectation. People ask me if that's intimidating and I say no, because when you work for U.S. soccer it's about winning gold medals and standing on the first-place podium."
The U.S. women's team, which has been ranked No. 1 for the past six years, next plays a pair of exhibition matches against France in Tampa, Florida, and East Hartford, Connecticut, in mid-June. The United States will host the eight-team CONCACAF qualifying tournament in October for the 2015 World Cup, according to an announcement Friday. The tournament was originally scheduled to take place in Mexico but there were "issues" concerning the venues, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said. The venues and schedule for the tournament have yet to be determined.
Despite the team's success on the international stage in recent years, the U.S. women haven't won a World Cup title since 1999. Japan won the 2011 World Cup in Germany, defeating the United States on a penalty shoot-out following a 2-2 draw after extra time.
"The job description is to win next summer," Gulati said during a conference call Friday announcing Ellis' appointment. Beyond that, the U.S. team will also look to defend back-to-back-to-back Olympic titles in Brazil the following year.
Sermanni helped the U.S. to a 13-0-3 record last year, but the Americans went 1-2-1 at the Algarve Cup in March, the last major tournament for the U.S. before qualifying this fall. The seventh-place Algarve Cup finish included a 1-0 loss to Sweden and Sundhage, ending a two-year, 43-game unbeaten streak. That was the first loss following a 16-0-4 start under Sermanni.
Ellis led the team to a 3-0 exhibition win in the second match against China after Sermanni was dismissed. "We're comfortable with Jill, we love Jill, we have a lot of respect for Jill, and she didn't really miss a beat. She put the pen on the board and she just started coaching," U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo said following the match. "I'm always honored to be coached by Jill. Every time she has something to say, I always perk up and listen."
Ellis will step down from her position as U.S. Soccer women's development director now that she is the head coach, the organization said. "We think Jill's got all the right credentials, both in terms of experience, and how she relates to the players — we've been able to see that firsthand in the two times she'd been with the senior team and previously with our youth teams," Gulati said. "She gets top marks in all the work she's been doing on the technical side with all of our programs in the last several years. It's all of those things."