Barring an incredible surprise, it’s likely that Tab Ramos will become the next coach of the United States men’s soccer team on an interim basis while the U.S. Soccer Federation waits to appoint a permanent coach until at least next year.
The U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, which resulted in the resignation of coach Bruce Arena. However, the United States has said that it plans to play a pair of friendly matches in Europe, which means they’re going to need a coach for those matches.
The most likely person to be the man in charge for those matches is Tab Ramos, who currently coaches the United States’ under-20 national team. Unlike most of the options for the World Cup, Ramos can easily switch between his current duties and those of the national team. He’ll likely be using these games as an audition (as will U.S. players) for the permanent job, which will probably be decided no earlier than February, when USSF president Sunil Gulati is either re-elected to a fourth and final term or is ousted by a challenger.
Here are five things you need to know about Ramos.
1. He’s Played for the USMNT
Ramos spent 12 years competing for the United States’ national team following four years playing in college for North Carolina State. When he came out of school, he was awarded a contract to play exclusively for the U.S. national team as the squad attempted to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
While with the United States, Ramos saved his scoring touch for matches against Costa Rica. The midfielder wasn’t known as much of a scorer, notching just eight goals for the U.S. in 12 years on the team, but two of his eight goals came against the Ticos in a World Cup qualifying match. In 1989, it was his goal against Costa Rica that gave the U.S. their first win in the final round of qualifying, a 1-0 victory. The goal proved to be a big one, because without the win over Costa Rica, Paul Caligiuri’s historic goal against Trinidad and Tobago that sent the U.S. to the 1990 World Cup wouldn’t have been enough to matter.
Ramos repeated his heroics eight years later after a dream the night before the match that he’d be the one to score the winning goal in their qualifier against Costa Rica — which he laughed off because he was well-known to be a creator rather than a scorer for the U.S. But his dream became a reality when he hit the only goal, springing the United States toward the 1998 World Cup.
2. He Was the First Player in MLS History
MLS is now a healthy league with 22 teams across the country and regularly draws solid crowds in places such as Atlanta and Seattle. But without Ramos being willing to take a chance, the league might never have gotten off the ground in the first place.
When FIFA awarded the World Cup to the United States in 1994, one of the caveats was that the country would have to create a domestic soccer league, which would eventually become MLS. Ramos, who was set to sign with Mexican club Tigres as their first American player, chose to take a chance on the new league and sign on as the first player when the league began play in 1996. To make sure that Ramos wouldn’t be without a place to play while the league handled the business side of getting off the ground, the league loaned him out to Tigres for the next year-plus.
When the league was ready to take the pitch in 1996, Ramos joined his new team, which had become the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, giving him the chance to play in his home state of New Jersey. He ended up playing until 2003, spending his entire MLS career with the Metrostars, who are now known as the New York Red Bulls.
If he’s chosen as the U.S. coach, Ramos would become the first coach in USMNT history to have played in MLS.
3. He Was Born in Uruguay
When Ramos was born in 1966, soccer was barely a thought in the United States. However, Ramos was born in the birthplace of the World Cup in Montevideo, Uruguay. His father was a professional soccer player in Uruguay and Uruguay had won its second World Cup title 16 years earlier, leading him to play his formative years in a country that lived and breathed the world’s game.
By the time Ramos arrived in New Jersey at the age of 11, his game was strong enough to allow him to stand out among his teammates and opponents — no small feat in Kearney, N.J., which also produced national team members John Harkes and Tony Meola, both of whom would join Ramos in playing large roles in helping the U.S. reach the round of 16 at the 1994 World Cup.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1982 and officially became cap-tied to the United States in 1988, when he made his first appearance for the senior team.
4. He Was the Last Cut From the 1984 Olympic Team
In 1984, Ramos was projected to be one of the main cogs for the United States team at the Olympics in 1984. The team would qualify automatically for the Los Angeles Summer Olympics as the host nation, and Ramos was one of the top amateur players in the nation, seemingly solidifying his spot with the team.
However, a rule change from the International Olympic Committee changed the game for him. After years of being amateur only, the IOC decided to allow professional players to compete in soccer for 1984. The U.S. responded by dropping all but one of its amateurs, Ramos included, for professional players. The pros didn’t get the job done, failing to get out of the group stage.
Ramos would eventually get his chance on the international stage when the U.S. fought through qualifiers to reach the 1990 World Cup. Four years later, he was a mainstay in the United States’ lineup for the U.S.-hosted World Cup, playing in all four matches until his tournament ended with a skull fracture in the 1994 World Cup from Brazil’s Leonardo.
Ramos would recover from the incident and made a full recovery, eventually competing in one more World Cup before calling it a career.
5. His Son Also Plays Soccer
Coaches with a son on the team isn’t uncommon in international soccer. In 2010, the United States featured such a situation when Bob Bradley featured his son Michael on the team at midfielder. If he gets the long-term job, Ramos could find himself in a similar situation with his son Alex.
Alex Ramos joined Pachuca of the Mexican league in 2015, following in his father’s footsteps by playing in Mexico. Actually, it’s because of his father that Alex Ramos was able to leave Iona College to join Pachuca.
While he was waiting for MLS to begin, Tab Ramos had relocated his family to Monterrey, Mexico, near the home of his Mexican club Tigres. During that stretch, Alex was born in Monterrey, which meant that per Mexican law, he was officially granted Mexican citizenship in addition to his American citizenship upon reaching his 18th birthday.
Because of that, he qualifies as a Mexican citizen, which means that he doesn’t count against the team’s limitations on foreign-born players. Alex Ramos is a talented player in his own right, and he could find himself in the mix for the national team in the coming years, with or without his father on the sidelines.