CHICAGO (Wednesday, December 26, 2001) - Thomas Rongen was named the new head coach of the United States Under-20 Men’s National Team today by U.S. Soccer president Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia. The former MLS Coach of the Year and 1999 MLS Cup champion will kick off his international head coaching career when the U.S. Under-20s play their first international game since June 2001 next month (vs. Canada on January 9, 2002, in Chula Vista, Calif.). Terms of the agreement were not announced.
Rongen was named MLS Coach of the Year in 1996 after leading the Tampa Bay Mutiny to a league-best 20-12 mark and the Eastern Conference regular season title. He guided D.C. United to MLS Cup ’99 in his first year with the team, and twice he has led teams to regular season titles (’96 with Tampa Bay and ’99 with D.C. United). After six years in MLS, Rongen is the winningest coach in league history with 82 career victories.
"This is an extremely exciting challenge for me," said Rongen. "Everyone at U.S. Soccer appreciates just how important our players at the Under-20 level are, and I am anxious to help build on the great success U.S. Soccer and MLS have made in developing these players the last few years. The international game is a new venture in my coaching career, and I am looking forward to our first training camp in January."
Rongen coached in MLS from its inception in 1996 until the conclusion of the 2001 season. After guiding the Mutiny during the league’s inaugural season, Rongen took over the New England Revolution, where he coached for two years, before replacing current Men’s National Team head coach Bruce Arena at D.C. United prior to the 1999 season.
“After looking at all of the qualities we wanted in our Under-20 head coach, we felt there was not a better fit for the position than Thomas Rongen,” said Contiguglia. “This age group is very important in the development of our young professionals, and we are confident that Thomas will prove to be a great teacher and a great coach for our up-and-coming players. His wealth of professional playing and coaching experience in the United States will no doubt be a benefit to our Youth National Team program.”
Rongen has been part of soccer in this country for more than 20 years as a player and a coach. His professional playing career started with famed Dutch club Ajax in the 1970s, before moving to the United States and the NASL in 1979.
He wrapped up his playing career at the same time he started his coaching career, serving as a player-coach for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the APSL from 1989-1992. After retiring in 1992, Rongen continued to coach the Strikers until 1994. In all, the Strikers advanced to the semifinals four times in six seasons, winning the APSL title in 1989 and falling in the final in 1990.
Rongen has international experience as a player, making 25 appearances with the Netherlands Olympic Team. The U.S. U-20s have qualified for eight of 11 all-time FIFA World Youth Championships, including each of the last three. In 2001, the U.S. advanced to the Round of 16 at the World Youth Championship in Argentina, before falling to eventual 3rd-place finishers Egypt. The U.S. finished in 13th place.
The U.S. Under-20s will spend 2002 training in preparation for the 2003 CONCACAF qualifying tournament and the 2003 World Youth Championship in Bahrain.