USMNT, Gregg Berhalter and Blackmail

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter finds himself embroiled in a blackmail scandal
Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/USA TODAY Sports

The U.S. soccer federation had a lot of momentum coming into 2023. A strong World Cup performance, joining (and hosting) the 2024 Copa America, and their young team finally seemed to be coming together. Then, in true American fashion, everything started to fall apart. From a young star being upset about playing time, to head coach Gregg Berhalter getting blackmail threats. Here is what we know:

What Lead to this

United States Men’s National Team’s young star Giovanni Reyna was unhappy during World Cup camp. He was told by the manager Gregg Berhalter that he would be a bench player. He was not too pleased with this, so he showed little to no effort during practice before the big tournament. Obviously, this is probably not the best way to gain favor with the coach — or your teammates.

Gregg Berhalter’s Blackmail

On Tuesday, January 3rd, Gregg Berhalter and his wife released a statement. The statement says that during the World Cup someone contacted U.S. Soccer “saying they had information about me that would ‘take me down.’”

The statement then goes on to talk about an event where Berhalter drunkenly gets into an argument with his wife (then girlfriend) that ended with Berhalter kicking her. “There are zero excuses for my actions that night,” he says in the statement, going on to say he “regrets to this day,” and that his wife Rosalind eventually forgave him after some time.

What this has to do with Gio Reyna

Well, it has come out today that Gio Reyna’s father, former national team star, Claudio Reyna, and wife Danielle were the ones behind the blackmail. Claudio Reyna and Berhalter go way back. Playing youth, high school, and college soccer together at UNC. This isn’t some random guy saying they can ruin Berhalter, this is a teammate, and probably someone he called a friend.

Claudio Reyna wasn’t the one who went to USMNT, his wife was. Claudio came out and said “I support my wife’s decision”. He also states that he “wasn’t pleased with how Gio was treated” at and after the World Cup. Danielle Reyna went to the head of the federation and said “I thought it was especially unfair that Gio, who had apologized for acting immaturely about his playing time, was still being dragged through the mud when Gregg had asked for, and received, forgiveness for doing something so much worse at the same age.”

As of right now, that’s all we know. The US soccer federation will be having a press conference later today. Until then the Gregg Berhalter blackmail saga continues.

The Evolution of Soccer in the US

Rate the U: Paxten Aaronson earns an A in first MLS start - Brotherly Game
Photo Credit: Brotherly Game

Soccer, the ugly stepchild of American sports. Not accepted by England as “real football” not accepted by Americans because it’s considered boring and as one fan told me “because the clock goes up not down.” There is a soccer evolution going on in the U.S. With the MLS over taking the NHL in yearly average viewership just last year. As well as over taking baseball in youth participation jumping from 17.6 million in 2017 to 19.6 million in 2021.

What Trends are Emerging in US Soccer?

When kids are growing up playing soccer, you are going to have more and more fans. The more participation there is, the higher the popularity eventually becomes. However, that’s kind of a cop out answer. Let’s get into it!

MLS used to be the European retirement league. Old stars from the bigger leagues would come over and finish out their careers when they were no longer good enough for the top leagues. Now, MLS teams like the Philadelphia Union have begun farming talent from their home areas.

How has the US Soccer Landscape Changed in Recent Years?

Youth academies, secondary training and development teams, and MLS Next Pro have all grown the game exponentially and contributed to the evolution of soccer in the US. Take the Philadelphia Union as a prime example. Americans became obsessed with Brenden Aaronson of Leeds when he showed off swag and scored a goal against Chelsea.

He is from Medford, NJ, and was in the Union’s youth academy, then made it to the Premier League. The Jersey kid from Medford went for a $30 million transfer fee. That is the second highest transfer fee for an American player behind only Christian Pulisic. The best part? Union has his kid brother Paxten Aaronson waiting for his chance with the top-ranked Union. Aaronson came in during the game and immediately made an impact with three shots on net.

Do Americans Really Care About the Sport?

That answer is yes. Yes they do. I have gone to Power 5 football games, been in the bleachers of Yankees stadium, and sat in the lower bowl at NFL games. Nothing, and I mean nothing compares to the atmosphere at a Union match.

18,500 seats feels like 50,000 in this place. The Sons of Ben (diehard fans) are the most electric fan section I have ever watched live. One fan told me “Being in Chester and not actually Philly is amazing. People in Delaware County don’t have much going for them. We rally around the Union. It’s all some of us have.”

Union fans make it hard to be an unbiased reporter. They are all incredible. I stayed until the very end of a 6-0 win over a not very good Colorado Rapids team.

Soccer has Changed and America is Coming with it.

The MLS is changing how soccer is seen in the U.S. The league inked a deal with Apple TV that will allow fans to watch any game with no blackouts, something the MLB has failed to do. Gave fans a sense of togetherness with homegrown players getting to stay home and grow with a fan base. Gaining stars overseas — in areas like Brazil and Germany — and having a competitive national team again just in time for the 2022 World Cup. Soccer is on the rise in the USA, and it’s time you join the revolution.

Women’s History Month: A look at Women in sports

As Women’s History Month begins, let’s look at some incredible examples today.

As March begins, so does one of the most important months of the year: Women’s History Month. Women in sports have changed nearly every aspect of the industry for the better. It would be impossible to do each of them justice, but the work they’ve done deserves to be celebrated.

A powerhouse in baseball

Baseball has long been known as one of America’s favorite pastimes. It is the oldest major professional sport in the world, founded in 1876. Over the course of nearly 150 years, it has changed the lives of many, including Kim Ng.

Kim Ng has long been a part of the world of baseball. Currently, she serves as the general manager of the Miami Marlins, making her the highest-ranking female in baseball. Ng is the first female general manager in MLB history, but it didn’t come easy. Along with being the first female executive, Ng is also the first East Asian American to achieve such a high position in baseball.

Ng’s career in baseball began as an intern for the Chicago White Sox in 1991. Since then, she has held the titles of special projects analyst, assistant director of baseball operations, director of waivers and records, assistant general manager, and now general manager. Kim became the first and youngest woman to hold many of these positions, breaking the glass ceiling time and time again.

Ng serves as an inspiration for women everywhere. Her current position and the path she took to get here show young women everywhere that in a male-dominated sport as old as baseball, women can and will leave their mark.

Hockey’s leading woman

When you think about hockey, it may be easy to get caught up in the brute force and fearlessness it takes to play the sport, but never-ending skating sessions and broken sticks didn’t scare Kendall Coyne-Schofield; they invited her to stay for more.

Coyne-Schofield’s relentless pursuit of greatness has led her to the top. She is now regarded as one of the best women’s hockey players in the world. The three-time Olympic medalist has paved her way in the world of hockey, winning countless awards and receiving never ending recognition.

Her hockey career was the first of its kind, leading her to become the first woman to ever take place in the NHL All-Star Skills competition. Coyne-Schofield replaced NHL superstar Nathan McKinnon in the fastest-skater challenge in 2019, where she placed seventh.

Fresh off a silver medal in Beijing, she is still a member of the USA Women’s Hockey Team. Coyne-Schofield has also gotten the chance to put her hockey knowledge to work as a coach. In 2020, she was hired as the first female player development coach for the Chicago Blackhawks. If that wasn’t enough, Coyne-Schofield has also changed the world of NHL color commentary, a position she held for the San Jose Sharks in 2017.

The impact she has left on the world of hockey and young women everywhere is bigger than any accomplishment summary could explain, but luckily, her advice is available for all, “Always follow your dreams, believe in yourself, and be willing to put in the work it takes to accomplish your dreams.”

Trailblazing the NBA

If you follow basketball closely, you’ve heard of Becky Hammon. She is an exceptional player, a phenomenal coach, and a role model for women everywhere.

Hammon’s playing career was monumental, but what she’s done since then has changed the course of basketball history. In 2014, Hammon became the second female coach in NBA history when she was hired by the San Antonio Spurs, a team she had collaborated with closely in the past. Later that year, Hammon was named ESPNW’s Woman of the Year.

Since 2014, Hammon’s success has only multiplied. One of her most notable accomplishments came in 2020 when she served as the first-ever female acting head coach in the league. Her tremendous work ethic, basketball knowledge, and coaching abilities led her to become the head coach of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces in 2021. She is now the highest-paid women’s basketball coach in history.

Hammon’s tremendous talent for basketball has been recognized by all. She has been praised by coaches, analysts, and, most importantly, her players. NBA legend Pau Gasol wrote an article titled, “An Open Letter About Female Coaches“, where he talked about the importance and excellence of Hammon.

“I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. Im not saying she can coach enough to get by, Im not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. Im saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”

Gasol emphasized the importance of females in basketball after witnessing Hammon’s impact on his team firsthand. Hammon is an inspiration to women everywhere as she continues to blaze trails in the world of basketball and sports.

“Well into adulthood, you have to be careful of the voices that you listen to. You got to guard your eyes, what you’re seeing, you got to guard your ears, what you’re hearing, because eventually, that stuff seeps into your heart. I think what settles into your heart is eventually what you become.” Hammon told the Bronx Times.

Her advice and her actions show young women everywhere that they can accomplish whatever settles into their hearts, whether it’s been done before or not.

Football’s first ladies

In recent years, the NFL has begun to implement female coaches. In 2021, they had a league-high 12 female coaches. They also now have a handful of female referees. Along with women on the field and in the facility, the NFL’s media has also seen an increase in female reporters and journalists. These women have all seen doors opened for them in football by two of the most influential women in the league thus far, Amy Trask and Erin Andrews.

Amy Trask was the NFL’s first female CEO. She became the CEO of the Oakland Raiders in 1997, a position she held until her retirement in 2013. Trask served as Al Davis’ right-hand lady for decades as she changed the world of football as we know it.

“I’m asked all the time if I was tested because I’m a woman. The answer is, we’re all tested all the time. Whether it’s because of our gender, our race, our ethnicity, our age, our seniority, our educational background – we’re tested all the time. Well, what’s the best answer when you’re tested? Pass the damn test.” Trask told SBNation. She showed women everywhere that your input, your dreams, and your skills are valuable, especially in a sport that consists of thousands of men.

Erin Andrews has followed Amy Trask’s lead as one of the most influential women in football. She has risen through the ranks of sports reporting since 2004, and she is now the lead sideline reporter for Fox Sports NFL broadcasting team.

Andrews has inspired hundreds of other sports reporters and women to chase their dreams, and now the NFL embraces the talent of many female football journalists and reporters.

Women like NFL Network’s Colleen Wolfe, Erica Tamposi, Cynthia Frelund, and Rachel Bonetta, CBS Sports’ Aditi Kinkhabwala, ESPN’s Dianna Russini, and many, many more women have broken down barriers. They show each day how important women are to the world of football, and they have opened countless doors. The NFL, as we know it, is headed in a new direction; a direction filled with female input on the sidelines, in the facility, and in front of the camera.

Inspiring change in soccer

One of the biggest stories in sports recently has been the settlement of a gender discrimination lawsuit in soccer. On February 22,2022, U.S. Soccer and the Women’s Players agreed to settle a lawsuit that has been active since 2016.

The terms of the agreement have finally equalized pay for men’s and women’s national soccer teams. This change was led by the hands of the US Women’s National Team’s own public figure and trailblazer, Megan Rapinoe.

Rapinoe has long been one of the best women’s soccer players in the country. She has led her team to two World Cup titles and an Olympic gold medal. Her on-field accomplishments are only surpassed by one thing: her world-changing activism.

She stands proudly for racial and gender equality, leading the charge for women everywhere. Her latest accomplishment on equal pay for women marks the beginning of a new era in major league soccer.

It’s impossible to explain the impact these women have had on the world of sports and sports media. Each day they show a male-dominated industry why their talents are more than valuable, they’re necessary. They serve as role models for women and girls everywhere, because if you see it, you can be it.

This Women’s History Month, take the time to recognize the women in sports that have impacted your favorite team. Spend time speaking on and celebrating the changes they’ve made and the glass ceilings they’ve shattered. This month, take the time to encourage the women in your life to follow their wildest dreams. They are destined to change the world thanks to the help of those that have come before them.