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Jake Catanese: US Soccer Needs to Purge Itself From the Reyna Scourge
The actions of Claudio Reyna should serve as a vital lesson for US Soccer going forward, and much needed no tolerance policy for its developmental ranks.
Yesterday, US Soccer announced the completion of the independent investigation regarding the Berhalter-Reyna situation that escalated around the 2022 World Cup.
Via Alston & Bird LLP, you can read the full report from US Soccer and details here but the TL;DR version is that the Reyna family comes off very, very badly here.
That is not to excuse the conduct of Gregg Berhalter in particular over 30 years ago in that a very clear domestic violence incident that occurred between himself and his now wife Rosalind while they were in college. The Berhalters have been very open to investigators regarding what occurred that night and how the couple moved on and Gregg in particular grew from that experience and worked hard at rebuilding his relationship. These details should have remained private to the Berhalter family and the only reason they came to light is deplorable.
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Claudio and Danielle Reyna are guilty of perhaps some of the worst helicopter parenting ever seen in youth sports, and knowing that this problem exists profoundly across US Soccer youth levels, there should be swift and decisive action from the federation against the Reyna’s.
While the independent report does not conclude that the Reynas committed any criminal blackmail or even harassment, a serious ethical breach of FIFA and USSF guidelines likely did occur though US Soccer is reviewing its own guidelines because of this situation. Add in additional information regarding Claudio’s reaction and written displeasure towards a female referee’s performance at a youth match and it’s clear he has no business representing US Soccer or MLS in any capacity.
That US Soccer didn’t address this specific issue five years ago with Claudio Reyna is a separate and telling issue about what it has allowed and tolerated throughout the sport they oversee and it is not surprising in the least. But the focus of this report should remain the actions of the Reyna’s in and around the timeframe of the 2022 World Cup.
Caught in the middle of this is the original issue of Gio Reyna’s playing time at the World Cup, a coaches’ decision in which Gregg Berhalter and Gio’s own teammates expressed their displeasure at the young attacker’s behavior and effort. Regardless of how that information came to light, and Gregg mentioning them at a leadership conference was not spectacular judgment, such issues and opinions should remain under the purview of the coaching staff and should not have any outside influence, especially from a parent and/or technical director of an MLS team.
Gio Reyna has largely been silent regarding the actions of his parents, though his agent released this message. Instead of distancing himself and taking ownership of his own actions, this statement only reinforces that Gio doesn’t realize the seriousness of what occurred and what it means to represent his country internationally.
That any statement was released to paint the Reyna’s in any sort of positive light is the proverbial cherry on top of this whole mess. Gio could have had a chance to simply put his head down with the MNT and continue to grow as a player both for club and country, but that statement above implying that there is any justification for the Reyna’s actions across the board is delusional and Gio should be very aware of that or have better people advising him.
According to Steven Goff, Gio Reyna is in line for a call-up later this month for the USMNT’s Nations League fixtures against Grenada and El Salvador. Gio is going to have to give something a lot better than the prepared statement above when he will certainly be asked about this situation.
If US Soccer or Anthony Hudson think this is the best course of action, that is their prerogative but I strongly disagree with calling up Gio at this point in the cycle, and maybe not at all through 2026.
I don’t think I’d be all that upset if Gio never played for the USMNT again since I don’t think Gio himself grasps what a privilege it is to represent his country along with 25 other players. I’m sure there is some logic to calling up Gio later this month, but I fail to grasp it as anything other than rewarding poor behavior from player and parents at a point where heavier scrutiny is needed to reflect on the overall situation. Giving Gio a call-up next week signals that US Soccer still cares more about winning over everything else and continues to send the wrong message to the sport.
There is no reason whatsoever for the elder Reyna’s to bring up a 30-year-old incident in retaliation for their son’s undeserved playing time at a World Cup. There is no reason whatsoever for this level of harassment and abuse directed towards any coach, referee, or staffer at US Soccer or any club team let alone at the senior national team level. There is no reason for US Soccer to put Gio Reyna in this situation mere days after this report if they still view him as a national team player.
Hopefully, as a US Soccer community, we can prove we are better than that by stamping out this kind of nonsense across all levels of our sport.
I do not think Gregg Berhalter should return as MNT head coach purely on sporting reasons alone, and surely not in the aftermath of this. Regardless of the independent reporting clearing him to remain as a candidate, a decision I find completely reasonable, US Soccer should not put themselves in a position where Gregg and Gio might interact again in a professional setting.
Calling Gio in now should effectively end Berhalter’s coaching candidacy as the federation surely would not be foolish enough to bring back Berhalter with Gio still as an active national team player.
US Soccer needs to emphasize and strictly enforce policies across grassroots and youth soccer to prevent this type of harassment from parents toward coaches, referees, and other staff. Parents berating coaches and referees over trivial matters like playing time and handballs should be met with expulsion of the parents and player from the US Soccer system.
Yes, innocent players will in the end be held accountable for their parent’s actions, it is a necessary step to rid evil from our sport. Parents should be very aware that their child can not and will not advance through the US Soccer developmental system squarely because the child’s parents are not fit to aid them in that process and represent the sport at any level based on their past or current actions of abuse, harassment, etc.
Winning is not a factor in developing young talent but fostering a healthy playing environment is, and a lot of teams and leagues would be better off by cutting ties with parents who continually display this type of behavior regardless of how talented their child might be.
This plague of misconduct and abuse has been allowed to fester and reach the highest levels of the sport. The world’s game should be open to all and a safe and welcoming activity in our youth ranks, not a cesspool of angry parents ruining the growth and development for so many over selfish reasons.
The Reynas did not have to be the sacrificial lamb for US Soccer to recognize and eradicate this problem, but their actions have offered them up for such service to the cause of bettering the sport which they at one time dedicated their lives too.
Now the sport would be better off without them.