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LYON, France — The United States’ 2-0 win over the Netherlands here Sunday in the Women’s World Cup final, on second-half goals by Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle, didn’t just cement this squad’s legacy as the best USWNT of all time.
It also made Jill Ellis just the second coach in World Cup history, men’s or women’s, to hoist the trophy twice, after Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo pulled off the feat more than 80 years ago.
Ellis is now the most successful manager in women’s soccer history. She’s never lost a World Cup game, compiling a ridiculous record of 13 wins and one draw over the last two tournaments. Which leaves one to wonder: Will Ellis now just drop the mic and ride off into the sunset?
With an Olympics next summer in Tokyo, the team, for the most part, will remain the same. Even 36-year-old veteran Carli Lloyd has said she intends to stick around for at least another year.
Ellis, however, is far from a lock to return. The contract that pays the English-born, American-bred manager $500,000 a year expires at the end of this month. (The 52-year-old also got a $200,000 bonus for Sunday’s victory.) There’s an option year at the same rate that either she or the U.S. Soccer federation can exercise that would take her through Tokyo.
Understandably, Ellis wan’t interested in discussing what she might do post-match. “I can’t even think about that right now,” she said during a news conference afterward, one that was briefly interrupted by a FaceTime call from her mother. “Right now, it’s about just enjoying this moment.”
Still, the chance to win Olympic gold — although coaches don’t actually receive a medal — with the same players who tore though France 2019 figures to be attractive, especially after the U.S. missed out on the podium entirely for the first time ever at the Rio Games three years ago, and especially with European heavyweights such as France and Germany failing to qualify for that event. Ellis might not want to leave a cool half-million bucks on the table either, not to mention whatever the bonus for success in that competition would be.
Yet there’s also plenty of value in going out on top. The Olympics are secondary to the World Cup in terms of prestige anyway, and it might actually be worth more to Ellis in the long run not to risk tarnishing her resumé if things go sideways in Japan. This team has made winning look easy, but sustained success at major tourneys is almost impossible to achieve. There are too many variables involved. Before Sunday’s match, Ellis herself pointed out that no World Cup champ has ever gone on to capture the gold medal the following year.
But if Ellis does walk away, what does she do for an encore? She could surely rake in a fortune via corporate speaking engagements; companies will be only too happy to throw money at her to share her leadership secrets.
A quieter life might be appealing after more than five years at the U.S. helm — there’s a reason few national team coaches stick around for even two cycles, let alone three. Ellis wouldn’t have lasted this long had a coup attempt by senior players a few years back been successful. Ellis also has a teenage daughter that she surely wants to spend more time with.
If she leaves now, Ellis will have options if she ever decides to return to coaching. Europe’s top clubs and national team programs are investing heavily in the women’s game. That trend will only continue. It’s not hard to see one of them trying to lure the the most accomplished manager ever to their ranks down the line.
A return to her native England could be especially appealing as a career capper after she was denied the opportunity to play the game she loved there as young girl before her family’s move to America set her on this path to glory.
It’s all just speculation at this point. What’s certain is that after pulling off an unprecedented World Cup double with Sunday’s triumph, Jill Ellis has earned the right to choose whatever she wants her future to be.
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