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Soccer drama: The Berhalter allegation came from player Gio Reyna's upset parents

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

U.S. soccer has been embroiled in a drama unlike any it has ever seen. First, there was an allegation about a decades-old assault incident between the coach of the U.S. men's World Cup team and his now-wife, and now it's been revealed that the source of that information was the parents of a player on the national team who were upset about how their son had been treated during and after the recent World Cup. NPR's Becky Sullivan is here to help explain. And, Becky, let's just start with the accusation against coach Gregg Berhalter, which is very serious.

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Yeah. This was first publicized on Tuesday, when Berhalter released a statement about it signed by both him and his wife, Rosalind. And so back in 1991, when Berhalter was a student and a soccer player at the University of North Carolina, he had started dating Rosalind, who was also a soccer player at UNC. They were out drinking one night. They'd gotten in what he called a heated argument. He says, quote, "it became physical, and I kicked her in the legs." He says he regrets it to this day, and afterward, he sought counseling, he said. The two of them ultimately rekindled their relationship, and they've now been married for 25 years. And he says he has never repeated that type of behavior since.

SUMMERS: And how did the U.S. Soccer Federation respond to that?

SULLIVAN: U.S. Soccer said they'd been informed of that allegation by a third party back in December. They hired a law firm to do an independent investigation, which is still ongoing. Meanwhile, Berhalter's contract as head coach expired on December 31. He is under consideration for getting the job again, they say, pending this investigation.

SUMMERS: So the soccer world was already surprised to learn about the allegation. But then came the revelation about who told U.S. soccer about this incident.

SULLIVAN: Exactly. On Wednesday, it came out that the sources of the allegation were Danielle and Claudio Reyna, the parents of Gio Reyna, who is one of the players on the U.S. men's national team. And this is just really stunning for a number of reasons, not least of which is that Claudio Reyna himself is a U.S. soccer player, a famous U.S. soccer player. He was captain of the national team in the early 2000s. And just on a very personal level, these two couples, the Berhalters and the Reynas - they were, by all accounts, very close. Claudio Reyna and Greg Berhalter played together for years. Reyna was best man when the Berhalters were married. And Danielle Reyna played soccer at UNC, too, and in fact, she was roommates with Berhalter's wife. So then there's their kid, Gio Reyna. He is 20. He's a professional player in Europe. And expectations were very high for him coming into this recent World Cup. But he actually ended up not playing very much at all, which had been its own little controversy.

SUMMERS: OK. And so what did the Reynas say about why they shared this information?

SULLIVAN: Yeah. So in a statement yesterday, Danielle Reyna said that she had been especially upset over some comments made by Berhalter at a leadership conference after the U.S. had been eliminated from the World Cup. He had talked about an unnamed player who was having attitude issues. They almost had to send him home. But eventually the player apologized to his teammates, and all had seemed well. And this was clearly about Gio. Berhalter later said that he thought the remarks were off the record, but they weren't. They were published, at least, and after Gio's mom saw that, she said she called up U.S. Soccer and told them about this 1991 incident.

She says she did not ask for Gregg to be fired, so that's worth noting. And in his own statement, Claudio said he'd been frustrated with his son's, quote, "World Cup experience" during the World Cup and had sent text messages to U.S. Soccer officials about that. And both Reynas denied threatening anybody - hard to believe this boils down to a set of parents upset about...

SUMMERS: Yeah.

SULLIVAN: ...Their kid's playing time, but it appears that might be the case.

SUMMERS: NPR's Becky Sullivan. Thank you.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.