Q&A: New U-23 WNT Head Coach Matt Potter Ready to Lead International Players
As long-time collegiate head coach Matt Potter takes over as head coach of the U.S. Under-23 Women’s National Team – the oldest age group for USA’s YNTs – ussoccer.com took some time to speak with him about the importance of the U-23s to the senior National Team, his experiences in France as a scout for the USA this past summer and his goals for the program.
ussoccer.com: This age group represents a crucial time in the growth of these players for the international level as they are in their early 20s and trying to make the jump to the full team. What are the messages for these players who want to make it to the senior side?
Matt Potter: “A main message is that there’s always opportunity. We are in a period right now where (USWNT head coach) Vlatko (Andonovski) is shaping a vision of how he wants to see the team evolve and play, so it’s important for the U-23 head coach to align with Vlatko and (USWNT General Manager) Kate Markgraf’s vision. Anytime there’s a coaching change, there’s new opportunity for players to show themselves, whether that’s through the college game, the NWSL, playing abroad, or our Youth National Teams, and one of my jobs is to identity these players, continue to monitor them and help them fulfill their potential in the next stage of their careers.”
ussoccer.com: Can you speak about the importance of the NWSL for the U-23 age group?
MP: “The NWSL mirrors how the international game is continuing to evolve and it’s a wonderful platform for the players to express themselves against some of the best players in the world. The league is a vitally important part of our evaluation process and with all the World Cup players currently playing in the league, it gives these younger players a chance to test themselves in a competitive environment. It also gives us the chance to evaluate their abilities and track their growth under the tutelage of some excellent coaches in the NWSL.”
ussoccer.com: You were an opponent scout for the U.S. team last summer at the World Cup in France. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?
MP: “First and foremost, I’m indebted to Jill Ellis and our scouting lead B.J. Snow for the opportunity to have the experience of being an opposition scout and contributing to the World Cup run. Being there in person was a wonderful opportunity to see the world’s game at its best. While we clearly have some of the best players in the world playing for the United States, to see the trends and the international bench marks of the world’s best players, as well as the playing styles of many teams, gave me a unique platform that I hope will translate to helping a new group of players in our U-23 program.”
ussoccer.com: What qualities about the international game drew you to this job?
MP: “I’ve always considered myself to be a student of the game, so to see how international soccer has changed, and to be able to dissect and analyze those games, is a huge growth opportunity for me. Personally, I want to continue to evolve as a coach and as a professional. Any competitor wants to be coaching players at the highest levels, and this job presented that opportunity. I also sincerely enjoy helping others figure out how to maximize their potential as people and players. Ultimately, it’s a chance to give back to the game, so I’m really looking forward to working with this age group and assisting Vlatko however I can.”
ussoccer.com: How do you view the U-23 WNT as part of the pathway to the pros and to the senior team?
MP: “The beauty of the job is that it’s not limited to one age group. Talent knows no age. My job, regardless of age, is to identify players that fit the profiles and principles that Vlatko values, whether these players are in youth clubs, college or the pro ranks. My job is to bring clarity to who they are, connect with them and help them commit to fulfilling their potential no matter where they find themselves in their careers.”