NEW YORK - Bruce Arena experienced unprecedented success as coach of the U.S. men's soccer team, including 71 victories during his eight-year tenure and a quarterfinal appearance at the 2002 World Cup.
Now, three weeks after the Americans' disappointing first-round exit from the World Cup in Germany, Arena is out despite an apparent wish to return to the team.
The U.S. Soccer Federation announced Friday that Arena's contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the year.
"Bruce expressed a desire to continue," federation President Sunil Gulati said. "I'm sure he'll have opportunities."
Arena won more than twice as many games than any other U.S. coach, and the team's run to the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup was a highlight. But he'll leave after losses to the Czech Republic and Ghana and a draw with eventual champion Italy at this year's World Cup.
Arena released a statement through the federation.
"I am proud of how far the organization has come over the last eight years, and I am extremely optimistic about the future of the sport in our country," he said. "As for me, I am planning to take some time off to weigh my future opportunities."
Gulati, who made his decision after meeting with federation general secretary Dan Flynn and Arena on Thursday, said a search for a new coach will begin immediately. The U.S. has matches later this year and Arena would manage if his successor is not found by then, he said.
Many people have been mentioned as possible candidates, including Juergen Klinsmann, who resigned Wednesday after guiding his native Germany to third place at the World Cup.
Klinsmann has said he had no interest and had not been contacted by the U.S. federation, a statement confirmed by Gulati.
There have been several major coaching changes leading up to the World Cup and during the week after it.
UNITED STATES: Bruce Arena (below) is fired.
ITALY: Marcello Lippi resigns after winning World Cup title. He's replaced by former national team midfielder Roberto Donadoni.
GERMANY: Juergen Klinsmann resigns after third-place finish.
CROATIA: Zlatko Kranjar is fired.
POLAND: Pawel Janas resigns after first-round elimination. He's replaced by Leo Beenhakker, who coached Trinidad and Tobago during the World Cup.
SERBIA-MONTENEGRO: Ilija Petkovic resigns after early elimination in the World Cup.
AUSTRALIA: Guus Hiddink leaves, takes Russian coaching job in April.
ENGLAND: Sven-Goran Eriksson announces in January he'll leave after the World Cup.
Sources: Associated Press, fifaworldcup.yahoo.com