On Friday, U.S. Soccer named Jill Ellis as head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team. Ellis has been serving as interim coach after Tom Sermanni was fired in April 2014. During a prior stint as interim coach, she guided the team through its post-Olympics tour after Pia Sundhage stepped down in 2012. During that time, Ellis compiled a 5-0-2 record, including two draws against Germany. Considered a candidate to permanently fill the vacancy then, Ellis removed her name for consideration.
During a media conference call in April to discuss Sermanni’s firing, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati outlined the timeline for filling the coaching position and said a very short list of candidates would be considered. That short list is believed to have come down to Ellis and Tony Gustavsson, head coach of Tyresö FF of Sweden’s Damallsvenskan league. Before joining Tyresö, Gustavsson was as an assistant head coach of the USWNT under Pia Sundhage in 2012. Both coaches are familiar with the players and the much bandied about culture of the women’s program in the United States.
“Jill has been on the bench for more senior and Youth Women’s National Team matches than perhaps any coach in United States history,” Gulati said in a press release. “She has worked at this for many years and has tremendous knowledge of our player pool and the qualities of multiple generations of players.
“We are confident she is the best person to find the right combinations on the field to make us successful in World Cup qualifying and beyond. She has experienced first-hand the growth of women’s soccer worldwide and is uniquely positioned to lead our team to an even higher level.”
With a head coach now in place, the team and staff turn their attention to the two upcoming friendlies against France in June. Beyond that, additional friendlies through September will serve as preparation for the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship in October, which acts as the region’s World Cup qualifying tournament. The top three teams qualify for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
About Jill Ellis
“First, I would like to sincerely thank U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati and U.S. Soccer Secretary General/CEO Dan Flynn for this amazing opportunity. It’s a huge honor,” said Ellis. “I also want to acknowledge all the past players and coaches that have built a rich tradition and legacy for this team. I’m humbled and proud to lead the current generation of players toward the ultimate goal, a FIFA World Cup championship. Finally, I want to thank my father who ignited my passion for this game and who inspired me to be a coach.”
Originally from Portsmouth, England, Ellis moved to the United States while a teenager. Her father, John Ellis, is a former player and long-time coach with a varied coaching career that spans decades and includes a stint as an assistant coach with the USWNT under former head coach April Heinrichs. In 1981, the senior Ellis founded the Soccer Academy, where son Paul serves as director.
As a player, Ellis won a U-19 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship with Virginia’s Braddock Bluebelles and was a third-team All-American for the College of William and Mary in 1987.
Like her father, Ellis has a varied coaching background, with head coaching spells at the collegiate and youth levels, as well as a short stay as an assistant coach with the USWNT under Pia Sundhage in 2008 and 2012. Her coaching career began with an assistant position at North Carolina State University and then on to the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia, both under April Heinrichs. A head coaching position at the University of Illinois beckoned soon after and while there, she not only established the women’s soccer program but also led the Fighting Illini to a Big Ten Tournament berth in its second year of existence.
However, her highest profile tenure in the college ranks was with UCLA. In 12 seasons, Ellis led the Bruins to eight NCAA Final Fours, of which seven straight appearances came between 2003 and 2009. Six Pac-10 (now Pac-12) Conference titles would come consecutively from 2003 to 2008. Despite the success, Ellis would leave Westwood without a national championship to become Development Director for the U.S. women’s national teams in 2011. The appointment reunited Ellis and Heinrichs, her long-time mentor and Technical Director of women’s soccer for U.S. Soccer.
At the youth level, she led the U-21 team to a 2000 Nordic Cup title and the U-20 team to a 2010 CONCACAF title.
Focus on Development
In 2012, Our Game Magazine sat down with Ellis to talk about her soccer journey and her role as Development Director with U.S. Soccer. Read the interview below.