When the United States Soccer Federation promised a foreign, big-name coach to follow up Bruce Arena after the failures of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, the decision to opt for home-grown Bob Bradley raised more than a few eyebrows. However, since taking the USA reins, first as an interim coach and then on a permanent basis, the thoughtful tactician's approach has reaped heavy benefits for the Americans.
Never having played professionally, Bradley - who came of age in a United States with decidedly few options for the realisation of professional aspirations - played a proud four years at high-power Princeton University between 1976 and 1980. He took up his first managerial post at the University of Ohio at the tender age of 22, before moving on to take up the task at his alma mater Princeton in New Jersey. In eleven seasons there, from 1984 to 1995, Bradley honed his skills as a coach, before heading off for greener pastures after Major League Soccer was established in 1996.
In the league's inaugural season, Bradley settled in as assistant coach to his old friend and mentor Bruce Arena at DC United, where he helped the side to back-to-back titles in 1996 and 1997. His next step came in Chicago, playing its first season as an expansion club, in 1998. It was Bradley's first gig as a professional head coach and it was an unqualified success as the Illinois franchise, led by playing great Petr Nowak, did the double in their first year, picking up the MLS crown and winning the US Open Cup. Bradley, unsurprisingly, was named coach of the year for 1998. In 2003, he moved on to the struggling MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls), where he spent two seasons, leading the hard-luck side to their first Open Cup final.
After being sacked from the Metros, Bradley headed to new club Chivas USA in 2006 and revived the side after a dismal opening season. It was at this point that the coach appeared on the radar of the US national team decision makers, having recently sacked Arena following a disappointing group-stage exit from Germany 2006.
After being named head coach in December 2008, Bradley set about straight away to build a team, using his experience coaching youth players, at University and Olympic level, to cultivate a team of youngsters looking beyond the old idols like Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride. Bradley brought in a crop of new players like his son Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, Jozy Altidore and many more, immediately making an impact and picking up important results with all eyes on him.
Bradley led the USA to CONCACAF Gold Cup glory in the summer of 2007, beating Mexico in a thrilling final in Chicago, and has since established himself as a calming figure at the helm of a young and ambitious national team. He led the USA to a first-place finish in North, Central American and Caribbean qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and in 2009 orchestrated a shock heard around the world with wins over Egypt and Spain to reach the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup, eventually losing out to Brazil after taking a 2-0 first-half lead.