Why USMNT had to fire Gregg Berhalter, plus a Copa America brawl

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While You Were Sleeping: Even superteams need to practice

Every four years, we get to watch the best American basketball players look a little lost during Olympic prep. No matter the star power, no matter the billions in combined net worth, even the NBA’s brightest stars can’t become a superteam right away.

We got to see it last night, if only for a few minutes:

  • Team USA debuted maybe the most stacked roster since the 1992 Dream Team, beating a good Canada team 86-72 in what ended up being a promising exhibition start.
  • A shaky first quarter — Canada led 21-14 heading into the second — was the only tuning needed for the Americans. Steph Curry, Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis and Anthony Edwards each finished with double-figure points. Team USA finished with 53 rebounds, which assuaged some prior worries about the team’s big men. Kawhi Leonard’s absence still looms large, however.

The mood was a little feisty too, thanks to Dillon Brooks’ (who else?) pregame comments. I hope this rivalry continues.

The men play another exhibition against Australia next week in Abu Dhabi, while the women’s Olympic roster gets its first look against Team WNBA on July 20.

Goodbyes: Why Berhalter’s ouster was necessary

Gregg Berhalter is done as USMNT head coach, a day many fans wished had come sooner, but one that nonetheless feels surprising, given the history between coach and program.

It was time, though. And it couldn’t wait much longer:

  • Berhalter’s final two matches as USMNT manager were a microcosm of why this move was so necessary. A shocking loss to Panama in the Copa America group stage paved the way for a hard-fought loss against Uruguay, which got the Americans bounced early from their home turf. It was an absolute failure.
  • Berhalter shepherded a young, talented group into competence, but there was always a sense of a ceiling. His “best” USMNT performance on the World Cup stage was a draw against England in 2022. Sporting director Matt Crocker was blunt in USMNT’s release, saying: “Five years is a long time, and there’s been a lot of building blocks that have been put in place.” Translation: Thank you for the time, Gregg, but we need someone else now.
  • Time is this team’s biggest enemy. Just two years remain until the World Cup, also on home soil, and the roster is good enough to compete — even if data shows it’s not as talented as we all think.
  • And that’s not to mention the whole mess with Gio Reyna and his family after the World Cup. Still, Berhalter returned as coach, a shock to most.

So, who’s next? That question will dominate the coming months. I wouldn’t count on pipe dream Jurgen Klopp, though I suppose anything’s possible. Our list of realistic candidates includes Gareth Southgate, Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel, among others.

With the World Cup on home soil just two years from now, this will be the most consequential hire in the history of American soccer. No pressure.

News to Know

NBA finalizes $76B rights deal
Our Andrew Marchand reported yesterday that the NBA has finished up contracts with ESPN, NBC and Amazon as broadcast partners on an 11-season deal worth about $76 billion. These are massive numbers, and the arrangement brings NBC back into the NBA fold while adding Amazon as a first-time broadcast partner. A final item to resolve: TNT has an option to match any of the networks’ packages, and Andrew suggests Amazon would be the target. Read the full scoop here.

Franco charged
Dominican Republic officials charged Rays shortstop Wander Franco for sexual and commercial exploitation of a minor, according to a statement released Tuesday. Franco has not played since August of last year, when allegations emerged of an inappropriate relationship with a minor. Franco was moved to MLB’s restricted list, where he will not be paid or accrue major-league service time, after the charges were filed. More details here.

More news

Finals, Finalized: A brawl and a stunning game winner

We had two entertaining semifinal matches yesterday, for completely opposite reasons. First, we start with the fight: 

  • Colombia eked past Uruguay 1-0 in a game that was fun in its own right, but the scene afterward soaked up more headlines. Minutes after the final whistle, a massive melee broke out in the stands, with multiple Uruguay players involved. In post-match interviews, players said they were scared for their families’ safety and lamented the lack of security around. The Colombians will play Argentina for the Copa America title Sunday.
  • Earlier, England cashed a trip to the Euros final after a scintillating 2-1 semifinal victory over the Netherlands, punctuated by Ollie Watkins’ heroic 91st-minute goal. It’s funny how a tournament that’s been so frustrating for English fans will end in a second straight Euros final appearance (on Sunday against Spain). There’s a conversation to be had about starting Watkins over Harry Kane, who scored England’s first goal in this match (subscribe to The Athletic FC for that conversation, in fact). But that’s a good problem to have, I guess. It’s easy to root for Watkins. His goal is worth a look:

Watch This Game

MLB: Dodgers at Phillies
6:05 p.m. ET on MLB Network
These are the two best teams in the National League, and the Phils won the first two games of this series. This feels like pre-roll for a future playoff matchup. Watch it. 

WNBA: Sky at Liberty
7 p.m. ET on Amazon Prime
Angel Reese takes her WNBA-record double-double streak (14 games) to the Barclays Center to play the league’s best team. Extremely fun.

Get tickets to games like these here.

Pulse Picks

Meet Lloyd Howell, the new NFLPA director, a total outsider who emerged from a secretive hiring process. NFL players already trust him to navigate an uncertain future — namely, an 18-game schedule fight. Make time for this today.

Sam Vecenie has a new 2025 NBA mock draft, which of course focuses on Cooper Flagg at No. 1. But, unlike this year’s crew, the 2025 class is deep

Levi Weaver linked this in yesterday’s Windup and I thought it was lovely: MLB Statcast is 10 years old, which feels ridiculous for something that’s already so embedded in the sport. 

Rory McIlroy says he wandered around New York City the week after choking at the U.S. Open, trying to forget the meltdown. Relatable. 

Dane Brugler took another look at the QBs in the 2025 NFL Draft class. There’s no Caleb Williams, but there is plenty of talent

Most-clicked in the newsletter yesterday: Our story on Jannik Sinner’s ouster at Wimbledon

Most-read on the website yesterday: Dom Luszczyszyn rated all 32 NHL teams from most improved to least improved this offseason. Good job, Blackhawks. 

Top podcast in The Athletic network: The Windup crew wondered if baseball can ever be the top dog of all major sports again.

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(Photo: Hector Vivas / Getty Images)

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