U.S. Soccer is in negotiations with Bruce Arena to return to coach the national team, according to ESPN FC sources, after it was announced that Jurgen Klinsmann was relieved of his duties on Monday.
Arena, 65, managed the U.S. for eight years, reaching the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan in the team's best finish since the inaugural event in 1930. However, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati fired him after the U.S. failed to advance to the knockout stage in 2006 in Germany.
Last week, sources had said that Gulati and U.S. Soccer had been weighing replacement options for Klinsmann for more than a year, with Arena, Sporting Kansas City's Peter Vermes and former U.S. national team player and Klinsmann assistant Tab Ramos in the mix as possible candidates.
Arena's contract with the Galaxy was set to expire next month, but sources said he recently signed a two-year extension with the MLS club. However, the new deal would allow Arena to leave if he were offered the national team job.
Following his tenure with the national team, Arena managed the New York Red Bulls for a year and a half before moving on to the Galaxy. Arena won three MLS Cup titles in Los Angeles between 2011 and 2014 and was named the league's coach of the year in 2009 and 2011.
Longtime assistant Dave Sarachan, who helped Arena manage the national team for three years from 1999-2002, recently left his position as a Galaxy assistant, adding to speculation that Arena might be moving toward taking on the U.S. role for a second time.
In an interview with Fox's Alexi Lalas in April, Arena said he would consider coming back "under the right circumstances."
"I am not auditioning for the national team job, I'm not publicly advocating that Jurgen be relieved of his duties as the national team coach," he said. "If I was asked to become the national team coach again, I would certainly be interested in doing that."
I'm told that negotiations are ongoing with Klinsmann's successor. All signs pointing to Arena. #usmnt
- Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) November 21, 2016
Arena's U.S. squads could have a very different look than it did under Klinsmann, who brought in a number of German-born dual nationals -- with John Brooks, Jermaine Jones, Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson all starting in the losses to Mexico and Costa Rica this month that sealed Klinsmann's fate.
But in 2013, Arena told ESPN The Magazine that he felt the players on the national team should "be American," a sentiment that was admonished by U.S. players when it was used by former women's team star Abby Wambach in December.
"I don't even know some of the players, which is odd as the former coach. Players on the national team should be -- and this is my own feeling -- they should be Americans," Arena said three years ago. "If they're all born in other countries, I don't think we can say we are making progress."
In 2002, more than half of Arena's starters came from clubs in Major League Soccer, and Arena said in 2013 that, "It should still be the case, in my opinion."
Former U.S. star Landon Donovan returned to play for Arena's Galaxy in September, a year and a half after he retired following Klinsmann's decision to leave him out of the 2014 World Cup squad.
Donovan said of his talks with Arena about returning to the Galaxy: "Bruce was typically Bruce. As we first talked, he said that we're interested in this, but you haven't kicked a ball in 22 months, and you can't come in expecting that everything is going to be like it was before. I said, 'Bruce, my goal here is to help. I don't have some crazy urge to kick a soccer ball again, but I do love this club, I do love this team, and I do love this organization.'"