U.S. Soccer’s Berhalter Probe Tied to Reyna Tipoff

U.S. Soccer has found itself again embroiled in a messy and very personal controversy as its investigation into an allegation of domestic violence against U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter continues to unfold.

In a press conference Wednesday, U.S. Soccer shed little light on any details of the investigation it commissioned upon learning of the allegation against Berhalter late last year, which is being conducted independently of the federation, citing its ongoing nature.

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“Over the past couple of years under our new leadership team, we’ve made important changes in how U.S. Soccer operates, especially as it relates to how we handle allegations of misconduct,” U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow-Cone said on the call. “We take allegations seriously. We investigate them and handle the communication with transparency. This is why on Dec. 11, we initiated an investigation into an allegation of past misconduct against Gregg Berhalter. We hired a top-notch team of high integrity, experienced outside investigators to gather the facts about the allegation against Gregg and to follow the facts wherever they may lead. This now includes investigating potential inappropriate behavior towards multiple members of our staff by people outside of the organization.”

The investigation into Berhalter, who coached the men’s national team at the World Cup, was initiated in December—just three months after the lengthy Sally Yates-led investigation into widespread abuse within women’s soccer slammed U.S. Soccer for substantial systemic failures—after the federation was made aware of the allegation against the men’s team coach.

U.S. Soccer said Tuesday that it “immediately hired Alston & Bird LLP to conduct an independent investigation into the matter,” adding that the scope of the investigation has broadened since it began to include allegations of potentially inappropriate behavior toward members of its staff by “individuals outside of our organization.”

In a Tuesday statement signed by both Berhalter and his wife, Rosalind, the couple acknowledged an incident that took place in 1991 shortly after they began dating as students at the University of North Carolina. They said they had an argument that became “heated” as it moved outside of a local bar and eventually physical when Gregg kicked Rosalind in the legs. The incident was not reported to the authorities, but Berhalter says he sought counseling and confided in friends and family. The couple broke up before reconciling several months later.

Danielle Reyna, who played soccer at UNC alongside Rosalind Berhalter and is married to former USMNT captain Claudio Reyna, told The Athletic Wednesday that she unintentionally sparked the investigation after a conversation with U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart, whom she called “a close friend.” The Reynas’ son, Gio, was a member of Berhalter’s 2022 World Cup squad, though his playing time in Qatar was limited. Claudio Reyna and Berhalter played together in youth and high school leagues while growing up in New Jersey and eventually spent more than a decade together on the U.S. national team, adding to the complex web of personal relationships involved in this investigation.

Danielle said she called Stewart on Dec. 11 after Gio was assumed to be the subject of comments made by Berhalter while speaking at a conference on moral leadership after the team’s elimination from the 2022 World Cup. (Without naming Gio, Berhalter said he almost sent a player home from Qatar for failing to meet expectations of conduct on and off the field. Gio responded to Berhalter’s comments in an Instagram post the next day, acknowledging that he “let my emotions get the best of me and affect my training and behavior.”)

Reyna says she reached out to Stewart to prevent “further unwarranted attacks on my son” and added that she thought their conversation would remain confidential.

“I did call [Stewart] on December 11, just after the news broke that Gregg had made negative statements about my son Gio at a leadership conference,” Danielle Reyna said in her statement. “As part of that conversation, I told [Stewart] that 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.”

Reyna also alleged that the Berhalter’s recollection of the incident “significantly minimize[s] the abuse on the night in question.”

Berhalter, who did not identify Reyna in his statement, seemed to allege that threats were made by whoever reported the incident to soccer’s governing body. He said an individual contacted U.S. Soccer with “information about me that would ‘take me down,’” which he characterized as “an effort to leverage something very personal from long ago to bring about the end of my relationship with U.S. Soccer.”

Danielle and Claudio Reyna both denied making any threats, blackmail attempts or demands for Berhalter to be fired. U.S. Soccer did not address whether or not threats were made, citing the ongoing investigation.

Berhalter’s contract with U.S. Soccer expired on Dec. 31, 2022. Assistant coach Anthony Hudson was tapped Wednesday to serve as the USMNT’s head coach for its upcoming training camp and friendlies taking place this month.

Parlow-Cone said there was no timeline for the investigation’s conclusion but did cite a desire to “move quickly but not rush” the process. The men’s team’s head coaching job, for which Berhalter had been a likely front-runner, remains unfilled amid the external inquiry. U.S. Soccer said he was still under consideration for the opening pending the investigation’s outcome. Parlow-Cone added that the investigation’s findings will be made public upon its conclusion.

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