Reign FC's Vlatko Andonovski to replace Jill Ellis as USWNT coach

Vlatko Andonovski is expected to replace Jill Ellis as coach of the United States women's national team, according to a source close to the process.

Sports Illustrated originally reported the agreement, with Andonovski to be announced Monday in New York.

Andonovski, 43, becomes the eighth person to hold the U.S. job on a permanent basis and the first to do so as a product of a domestic women's professional league. Currently the coach of Reign FC in the National Women's Soccer League, Andonovski won two titles with FC Kansas City and is one of three people to hold head coaching positions since the league's inception in 2013.

He replaces a woman who won two World Cup titles and more games in total than any other coach in national team history.

Under Andonovski, who has no prior international coaching experience, the U.S. will attempt to become the first team to win World Cup and Olympic titles in successive years.

Terms of the contract were not immediately available.

His overall record in seven NWSL seasons is 68-47-43 with five playoff appearances.

Born in the former Yugoslavia, in what is now North Macedonia, Andonovski moved to the United States in 2000 to play professional indoor soccer for the Wichita Wings. He spent most of his indoor playing career in Kansas City and remained in the area with his wife and three children to coach youth soccer after he retired as a player in 2005.

A relative unknown in women's soccer when hired by FC Kansas City, which shared ownership interests with the Kansas City Comets indoor team for which he had played, Andonovski led the team to the playoffs in its first season and then won back-to-back titles the next two seasons.

He was widely lauded for both working well with veteran players like U.S. internationals Becky Sauerbrunn and Lauren Holiday, who won defender of the year and MVP honors, respectively, while playing for him, and developing young talent like 2013 NWSL Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak.

"The biggest thing that stands out is just his professionalism and his attention to detail," said Leigh Ann Brown, a defender who earned all-league honors while playing for Andonovski in Kansas City. "Vlatko just has a way of carrying himself. Even the way he speaks to his players, his knowledge of the game, it's very much about attention to detail, very professional."

Andonovski has also received praise for his work this season with Reign FC. Despite losing six players to season-ending or long-term injuries, as well as playing without FIFA Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe for most of the season, Reign FC qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6-8 record. The team will play the North Carolina Courage in a semifinal this weekend.

Asked recently while she was on international duty with the U.S. about Andonovski's strengths, Rapinoe echoed the sentiments about his ability to connect with, and challenge, an entire roster. She also suggested a bigger stage might bring out even more of his knowledge and talent.

"His tactical flexibility and knowledge is tremendous," Rapinoe said. "Even being in the NWSL, I don't think he's really able to put on his full arsenal of what he knows."

Andonovski is the fifth man to coach the women's national team on a full-time basis. National team general manager Kate Markgraf, the first person to hold that position, was asked when hired this year if she wanted to replace Ellis with another woman to lead a team that has been visible in promoting gender equality (including a wage discrimination lawsuit filed by players against the federation). Markgraf said at the time that was her inclination, all things being equal, which suggests she believes Andonovski stood out beyond all others in the coaching search.

Andonovski's first game as U.S. coach will be against Sweden, currently ranked fifth in the world, on Nov. 7 in Columbus, Ohio. The U.S. will go through Olympic qualifying at a date still to be determined next year. Only two CONCACAF teams qualify for the 2020 Olympics.