Former United States men’s national team captain Claudio Reyna sent multiple messages to U.S. Soccer executives during the World Cup threatening to reveal sensitive details about USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s past, multiple sources told ESPN.
The messages began after his son, Gio Reyna, was informed he would have a limited role at the tournament.
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U.S. Soccer did not receive any details about the claims until Dec. 11, when an executive was informed in a call with Claudio Reyna and his wife, Danielle, that Berhalter, 49, had a past domestic violence incident, sources told ESPN.
That information arrived the same day as comments Berhalter made at the HOW Institute for Society’s Summit on Moral Leadership in New York were published by Charterworks, detailing how “a player” was nearly sent home from the World Cup for not meeting expectations on and off the field.
Berhalter did not identify anyone by name, however, it was a clear reference to Reyna and confirmed by the player in an Instagram post the next day.
Claudio Reyna, who is currently sporting director for MLS club Austin FC, did not reply to a text message Tuesday seeking comment or a follow-up call Wednesday morning. A spokesman for Austin FC declined comment.
On Tuesday, Berhalter, whose contract as U.S. coach expired Dec. 31, revealed details of the incident with his wife in a lengthy statement posted to Twitter.
“During the World Cup an individual contacted U.S. Soccer, saying that they had information about me that would ‘take me down’ – an apparent effort to leverage something very personal from long ago to bring about the end of my relationship with U.S. Soccer,” Berhalter said.
“In the fall of 1991, I met my soulmate. I had just turned 18 and was a freshman in college when I met Rosalind,” Berhalter said. “One night, while out drinking at a local bar, Rosalind and I had a heated argument that continued outside. It became physical and I kicked her in the legs.”
— Gregg Berhalter (@GreggBerhalter_) January 3, 2023
Berhalter said the authorities were never involved and that he sought counseling after the incident. The couple reconciled seven months later, subsequently married and have four children.
“The lessons learned from that night over three decades ago became the foundation for a loving, devoted, and supportive relationship, which we honored and celebrated with our 25th wedding anniversary this past weekend,” Berhalter added.
After the U.S. Soccer executive was informed of the allegation against Berhalter, the federation immediately hired a law firm, Alston & Bird LLP, to conduct an independent investigation, the federation announced Tuesday.
On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer announced that current USMNT assistant coach Anthony Hudson would lead the team during a January camp in California, “With the ongoing investigation and U.S. Soccer’s full review of the USMNT program following the conclusion of the 2022 FIFA World Cup still underway.”
Claudio Reyna and Berhalter have a relationship that spans decades. They played youth and high school soccer together, their respective U.S. national team careers both spanned from 1994 to 2006 and their wives — Danielle Reyna (nee Egan) and Rosalind Berhalter (nee Santana) — were four-year teammates at the University of North Carolina.
Gregg Berhalter #3 and Claudio Reyna #10 line up together for a USMNT World Cup qualifier in 2005. Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
When Berhalter was hired as U.S. coach, Reyna lauded the move, calling Berhalter, “an exciting choice for the national team job.”
In an interview with the late Grant Wahl in February, Reyna said, “From [Berhalter’s] experiences as a player, he wants to make sure they understand also the collectiveness of playing for the team, which is so important. But just how much he’s excited and proud to be able to see the growth of this game and how these players are playing at such high levels, both domestically and internationally, making his decisions to pick a squad, never mind a starting 11, really difficult.”
In June, Berhalter told the Gab & Juls Show than when Gio was as young as 12 or 13, he had the sense watching him that he would have a future in sports, noting that he was an exceptional soccer and basketball player.
“Now as the national team manager it turns into a different relationship, but the connection is always there. The bond is always there,” Berhalter said. “Our families are very close. Very good friends and in Gio there are moments where I look at him and — putting him on the field or something. It’s so familiar. You’re looking at something that is so familiar to you and that’s such a great feeling. It’s almost like you’re putting a family member in the game. That’s been really fun.”
Despite dealing with injury issues over the past year, Reyna, 20, came into the World Cup having played regularly for Borussia Dortmund in the previous weeks and was widely expected to play a meaningful role.
Gregg Berhlater and Gio Reyna during the USMNT’s World Cup round of 16 defeat to the Netherlands. Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
He did not. In four World Cup games, Reyna made two appearances, coming off the bench to play seven minutes against England in the group stage and 45 against the Netherlands in the Round of 16.
Upon learning his role, Reyna admittedly did not respond well. In the Dec. 12 Instagram post, he said: “I let my emotions get the best of me and affect my training and behavior for a few days … I apologized to my teammates and coach for this, and I was told I was forgiven.”
Claudio Reyna has been the sporting director for Austin FC since November 2019, when he was hired after serving in the same role for New York City FC since 2013. Austin’s head coach, Josh Wolff, was an assistant for Berhalter for five years with the Columbus Crew and another year with the national team, prior to his appointment in Austin, which preceded Reyna’s arrival by four months.
Reyna was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012, four years after he retired as one of the most accomplished American soccer players in history. After winning three national titles in college playing for Bruce Arena at Virginia, Reyna’s professional career spanned from 1994-2008, with stops in Germany, Scotland, England and MLS.
At the Closing Ceremonies of the World Cup, Reyna was the only former player to serve as part of the United States’ Presidential Delegation, which was led by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.