In a surprising turn of events, Vlatko Andonovski has stepped down as the head coach of the U.S. women’s soccer team. This decision comes less than two weeks after the team’s disappointing exit from the World Cup in the round of 16, marking their earliest departure from a major competition.

The news was initially broken by soccer website 90Minutes and later confirmed by both The Athletic and ESPN. An official announcement from U.S. Soccer is anticipated on Thursday.

Andonovski, who previously led FC Kansas City to two NWSL championships, took over as head coach in late 2019 following Jill Ellis’ successful tenure that saw back-to-back World Cup victories for Team USA. Despite an impressive record of 51-5-9 over four years – with his five losses being the fewest for any U.S. coach with at least 60 games under their belt – Andonovski faced criticism for his tactics and substitutions during this year’s World Cup run which ended prematurely at Sweden’s hands via penalty kicks.

Before selecting his World Cup roster, Andonovski had to contend with injuries sidelining four starters. His chosen squad included 14 players making their tournament debut alongside veteran player Megan Rapinoe whose performance was not up to her usual standards this time around.

U.S Soccer now faces a race against time to find a suitable replacement for Andonovski whose contract was set to expire at year-end anyway. The women’s team has already qualified for next summer’s Paris Olympics and will begin preparations with friendlies against South Africa next month.

The opportunity to lead one of the most successful teams in women’s soccer history is likely to attract numerous applicants but no clear successor has been hinted at yet by U.S Soccer Federation officials.

England coach Sarina Wiegman could be considered one of the top candidates given her recent success leading England’s Lionesses but she remains under contract which could complicate matters if she were interested in making a move across the pond.

Other potential replacements include OL Reign coach Laura Harvey who narrowly missed out on securing this role four years ago and Australian manager Tony Gustavsson who served as an assistant under both Ellis and Pia Sundhage before guiding Australia’s Matildas into this summer’s World Cup semifinals.