Smith will be charged with continuing the high standard of success set by Ellis, and the previous head coach Lauren Gregg, who won three out of the last four championships at the Nordic Cup, the annual summer tournament in northern Europe which serves as the top competition in the world for U-21 women. This year's Nordic Cup will be contested in Norway at the beginning of August. Smith will begin his duties with the U-21s this week with a pool of players in San Diego that will compete against WUSA teams during their Spring Training at the ARCO U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Smith is the long-time head coach at Santa Clara University, one of the top college programs in the history of women's soccer. He will retain his duties with the Broncos and will enter his 15th year at the helm of the Santa Clara program this fall, where he has compiled a record of 219-58-15 (.775) in 14 seasons.
"Jerry Smith is the perfect choice to replace Jillian Ellis," said U.S. Women's National Team head coach and technical director April Heinrichs. "His record of player development and team development is indisputable. Jerry's teams consistently play positive, creative, possession-oriented and attacking soccer. His players understand the game, they are comfortable on the ball and they play to out-think the opponent. The future of our young women's national team hopefuls is in great hands."
Since taking over the head coaching duties at Santa Clara in the fall of 1987, Smith has built the Bronco soccer program into a national power. For 12 consecutive seasons, the Broncos have reached the NCAA Tournament, making seven NCAA Final Four appearances, including four in a row from 1996-'99. Smith has been heavily involved in the Olympic Development Program in the West Region, coaching various regional teams as well as serving as the head coach for the Western Regional coaching staff, a position he holds currently.
"I'm looking forward to working with our country's future World Cup and Olympic Team players," said Smith. "The U-21 team exists to bridge the gap between youth soccer and the full National Team. Our purpose is to provide the necessary environment to insure continued evaluation, selection, training, and preparation for our nation's elite so they are ready for the moment when the torch is passed onto them and they will represent our country in world championship events. I will enjoy the opportunity and challenge of helping these young, talented players take major strides toward their potential as future full National Team players."
Smith, 40, has coached numerous players who have made an impact on the U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team including defender Anna Kraus, midfielder Aly Wagner, who was the 2001 Chevrolet U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year, and 2000 Olympic Team member Danielle Slaton. Smith is married to U.S. Women's National Team defender Brandi Chastain, who is also an assistant coach at Santa Clara.
"This is a critical time for the U.S. Women's National Teams Program," added Smith. "While we have enjoyed tremendous success, many of the veteran players have retired from international soccer or will be retiring within a few years. The current U-21 player pool will need to be prepared to help the full team maintain our status as one of the elite teams in the world."