(Reuters) – Jill Ellis, who became the first female coach in history to win back-to-back World Cups, will step down as boss of the U.S. women’s national team in early October, she said on Tuesday.
Ellis, 52, who steered the U.S. to a record-extending fourth World Cup title in France earlier this month, called the move “bittersweet”, but said her decision to walk away after the team’s victory tour was in line with the timeline she envisioned when she was first appointed in May 2014.
“It has been an amazing ride,” said Ellis, who added that she wanted to spend extra time with her family after more than five years at the helm of the team.
“The timing of this is not just geared toward me on a personal level but also for the program as it prepares to start a new cycle,” she told reporters on a conference call.
“It just felt right, it felt good and I’m in a really good place with the decision,” added Ellis who won 102 of her 127 matches in charge.
At this year’s World Cup in France, Ellis guided her side to victory in each of their seven games in what was arguably the greatest achievement in the team’s history, three years after they missed out on a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
At the end of 2015, Ellis, who won eight tournaments with the U.S. including her two World Cup titles, was named the FIFA World Coach of the Year and CONCACAF Coach of the Year for Women’s Soccer.
Ellis, who was born in England and moved to the U.S. in 1981, said the team would benefit from a fresh perspective.
“I firmly believe that this is not a job that someone should sit in for 10 years. I think change is good,” she said.
“A position like this shouldn’t be forever.”
Ellis will continue to work for U.S. Soccer for at least the next year as an ambassador, which will include representing the Federation at events.
Yet she does not have many other concrete plans.
“When you go through something that’s intensive and do it for so long … I think I just need to take a step back, take it all in and see what next intrigues me and piques my interest,” she said.
U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said the governing body and the sport of soccer in general owes Ellis a debt of gratitude for all that she has done for the game.
“Jill was always extremely passionate about this team, analytical, tremendously focused and not afraid to make tough decisions while giving her players the freedom to play to their strengths,” Cordeiro said in a statement.
“She helped raise the bar for women’s soccer in the USA and the world, and given the history of this program, the level of success she achieved is even more remarkable.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Graff and Toby Davis)