Gregg Berhalter was hired Sunday to coach the U.S. men’s national team, making him the first person to run the Americans after playing for them at the World Cup.

Berhalter, who spent the past five years as coach of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, represents a generational change for an American team staggered by its failure to reach this year’s World Cup after seven straight appearances.

A native of Englewood, New Jersey, Berhalter grew up in Tenafly and played alongside a future U.S. captain, Claudio Reyna, at Saint Benedict’s High in Newark.

Berhalter’s Columbus teams succeeded despite one of the league’s lowest payrolls.

“They try to keep the ball. He’s got an idea and style of play that they stick to,” U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “That guidance will be important going forward.”

Berhalter, 45, was long viewed as the front-runner for a job that stayed open for nearly 14 months. He’s the second-youngest coach for the U.S. in four decades; Steve Sampson was 38 when he took over in 1995.

“He’s a coach that’s learning at all times,” said U.S. General Manager Earnie Stewart, who made the decision approved Saturday by the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors. “Every single day he tries to develop himself so he can be a better leader for the team that he has. That’s something that really stood out with Gregg and went a long way in the decision.”

Berhalter is a godson of baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. His brother, Jay, is the U.S. Soccer Federation’s chief commercial and strategy officer.

Berhalter started his coaching career at second-division Hammarby in Sweden in December 2011 and was fired in July 2013. Berhalter was hired by Columbus in November 2013 and led the team to third, second, ninth and consecutive fifth-place finishes. The Crew lost to Portland in the 2015 MLS final and to Toronto in the 2017 Eastern Conference final.

Stewart compiled a list of 33 candidates, narrowed it to 11 and interviewed two: Oscar Pareja, who left FC Dallas last month for the Mexican team Tijuana, and Berhalter.

Berhalter’s first significant test will be at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which opens June 18.

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