Sundhage stepping down as U.S. women's coach

Pia Sundhage announced she will be stepping down as head coach of the U.S. women's national soccer team. (Jon Super/AP photo, File)

The morning of the first leg of the women’s national soccer team Victory Tour, head coach Pia Sundhage announced she would be stepping down. General consensus had been that Sundhage, a native of Sweeden, would like to eventually return home and coach.

The statement from U.S. Soccer Saturday morning confirmed that notion.

"After the Olympics we had discussions and early in the process it became clear that Pia was very interested in returning home to Sweden," said  U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati in a statement. 

Under Sundhage, the women’s soccer team saw a resurgence, both in popularity and in high profile tournaments, highlighted by gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, as well as the squad’s runner-up finish in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

Currently, the national team is in Rochester, NY where they will face Costa Rica on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 in the first game of a Victory Tour across the country.

“Before I took this job, I always admired the spirit and character of the U.S. team,” Sundhage said in a statement. “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.”

Scheduled to play in four different states following Saturday’s friendly, it is expected that the team will eventually head to Philadelphia.

On Twitter, Delran native Carli Lloyd, expressed her gratitude to Sundhage.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to play for Pia. For the last 5 years she has led our team to 3 finals..2 Golds and 1 Silver,” she tweeted.

A few moments later, Lloyd added.

“I want to thank Pia for everything she has done for our team n for me..she has believed in me from day 1 and allowed me to grow as a player.”

Sundhage won 11 total tournament titles, including three Algarve Cup championships and two Olympic qualifying tournaments, amassing an 88-6-10 career record.

Named the head coach in 2007, Sundhage followed in the footsteps of Greg Ryan, whose tenure was often mired with controversy. Ryan, head coach from 2005-2007, led the U.S. women to a third place finish at the 2007 World Cup and a 45-9-1 record.