Pia Sundhage is stepping down as manager of the US women's football team that she guided to back-to-back Olympic gold medals and a FIFA Women's World Cup final appearance. Sundhage said in a statement shortly before her side hosted Costa Rica in a friendly to launch their post-Olympic "victory tour" that she was looking forward to returning to her native Sweden.
"I want to thank all the players and all of my assistant coaches for making me better," Sundhage said in a statement. "Before I took this job, I always admired the spirit and character of the US team, but to experience that first-hand on the training field and from the bench as their coach was truly special and something I will treasure for the rest of my life."
Since Sundhage took over in 2007 the Americans have reached the final of all three major tournaments they entered. Their 2-1 victory over Japan in the London Olympics final was a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final and avenged the most painful defeat in team history.
US Soccer officials said they would start looking for a new coach immediately but set no timetable for naming a successor. Sundhage is expected to stay with the US team for at least the next two matches of their victory tour, a pair of friendlies against Australia on September 16 in Carson, California, and September 19 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Americans then host two matches against two-time women's World Cup champions Germany on 20 and 23 October.
Sundhage had let it be known she was interested in returning to Sweden, where she will no doubt be a candidate to replace Thomas Dennerby, who resigned last month after eight years as manager of the Swedish women's team.
As a player, Sundhagee led Sweden to the title at the first European Women's Championship in 1984 and the bronze medal at the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991. She finished her 22-year international career with 71 goals and the US job was her first as a coach.