(Reuters)– Bruce Arena has been handed the tall order of getting the United States’ qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup back on track after being named head coach of the national team, U.S. Soccer said on Tuesday.
Arena, a five-times Major League Soccer champion coach who is taking over for the recently fired Juergen Klinsmann, is no stranger to the U.S. national team having been at the helm from 1998-2006.
Considered by many to be American soccer’s greatest coach of all time, Arena’s previous stint with the U.S. team included a run to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup, the country’s best result in the tournament since the inaugural event in 1930.
“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the Men’s National Team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement.
“His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying, and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach.”
Arena will assume his new role on Dec. 1 when he takes over a U.S. team sitting dead last in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, also known as “The Hexagonal,” after last week’s stunning loss to Costa Rica, which came on the heels of a home loss to Mexico.
Arena has a long history of success and was at the reigns for the two best dynasties MLS has seen.
Prior to his first stint with the U.S. national team, Arena coached D.C. United to consecutive MLS Cup victories during the league’s formative years.
He then captured three MLS titles during a remarkable four-season stretch with the Los Angeles Galaxy that came during one of the league’s most competitive eras.
When Arena joined Los Angeles late in the 2008 season he inherited a team that had not made the playoffs since 2005, were sitting at the bottom of the league, had David Beckham and Landon Donovan but little else.
A year later Arena led the Galaxy to a runner-up finish in the MLS Cup, the start of an impressive run that included championships in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
During his first stint with the national squad the United States shot to fourth from 19th in the FIFA world rankings and his 71 wins are easily the most in U.S. history.
But Arena’s contract was not renewed after a first-round exit from the 2006 World Cup in Germany where his U.S. team scored twice in three games and finished last in their group.
U.S. Soccer are now hoping that Arena can help steady the ship after a rough start to World Cup qualifying and reap benefits from his familiarity with the growing number of MLS players on the national team.
“I’m looking forward to working with a strong group of players that understand the challenge in front of them after the first two games of the Hex,” said Arena, who spent the last eight years with the Galaxy.
“Working as a team, I’m confident that we’ll take the right steps forward to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.”