Former USA U-20 coach Thomas Rongen is set to guide American Samoa through its qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
The 55-year-old Dutchman will arrive in the South Pacific this month to prepare his new squad for next month's preliminary stage of the OFC Nations Cup, the first step on the FIFA World Cup qualification path.
Rongen, who led DC United to the MLS title in 1999 and his adopted country to the quarter-finals of the 2007 U-20 FIFA World Cup, is excited to have taken on a position he describes as a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity.
"I'm an explorer and it's a part of the world I've never been to," he says. "We'll do our best in qualifying but I hope to leave something tangible behind as well."
The former midfielder moved to the USA in 1979 to join the Los Angeles Aztecs before further stints at numerous other clubs in the States.
Rongen was one of the inaugural coaches in the MLS, taking the Tampa Bay Mutiny in their first season in 1996, during which time his side won the regular season while the Dutchman was named the league's coach of the year.
He moved on to New England Revolution and DC United before being named coach of the national U-20 side, whom he mentored from 2001 until a brief stint at Chivas USA in 2005. Rongen then returned to the national team fold and led USA at the 2007 and 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cups.
American Samoa, one of the smallest nations in world football, struggled at the recent Pacific Games in New Caledonia, losing all four matches.
Rongen will attempt to turn that form around in the preliminary tournament for the OFC Nations Cup, which takes place in Samoa from 22 to 26 November and pits American Samoa against the hosts, Cook Islands and Tonga.