Soccer-Hayes seeking right mix in bid to return USWNT to Olympic glory

By Thomson Reuters May 23, 2024 | 10:23 AM

(Reuters) – U.S. women’s national team head coach Emma Hayes has promised to assemble a squad featuring a delicate mix of veterans and youth before heading to this year’s Paris Olympics where she hopes to return the team to golden glory.

Hayes, speaking on Thursday on NBC’s “Today” program, turned her full attention to the national team this week after winning a fifth straight Women’s Super League title with Chelsea on Saturday and stopped short of predicting Olympic gold.

“My focus is on the performances of the team,” said Hayes. “I want to get that right first.”

Hayes was named head coach of the national team last November but finished her final season as coach of Chelsea before formally taking over this week.

The 47-year-old Londoner acknowledged the women’s soccer landscape has changed dramatically and that many teams from around the world have caught up with the previously dominant U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) who have won four Women’s World Cups.

But despite an incredible amount of success, the national team have not won Olympic gold since 2012 and last year endured their worst-ever performance at a Women’s World Cup when they lost in the Round of 16.

“There’s no denying that historically, the program has been hugely successful but the rest of the world and their resources has made that an equal playing field,” said Hayes.

The U.S. team won four of the first five editions of the Olympic women’s soccer tournament, failed to win a medal for the first time in 2016 before returning to the podium at Tokyo 2020 where they took bronze.

Hayes announced this week her first USWNT roster for a pair of early-June friendlies against South Korea and will unveil her Olympics squad later that month.

Hayes told “Today” her focus is on obtaining a balance between veterans and up-and-coming talent.

“For me it’s the combination, the blend, we need the right mix,” said Hayes. “You can’t go to an Olympics with a complete inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players but getting that composition right, that’s my job between now and June 16.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)