NEW YORK -- As the new U.S. soccer coach, Bob Bradley is on equal footing with the big-time European managers in at least one respect.
He could lose his job as quickly as he got it.
Bradley was given the job on an interim basis Friday, one day after Juergen Klinsmann withdrew from consideration. Bradley was told that he might be gone by May -- before the Americans even play their next official game.
"Is Bob a potential candidate to coach the national team? The answer is yes," U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said. "Bob and I have had a very frank conversation about what those probabilities are, and I'm not going to go into those any further."
Bradley, one of the five finalists, takes over the team at its training camp next month prior to exhibitions against Denmark on Jan. 20 and Mexico on Feb. 7. He isn't even guaranteed of leading the national team in its two big tournaments next summer -- the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the Copa America -- but at the very least will get the consolation prize of coaching the U.S. Under-23 team as it tries to qualify for the 2008 Olympics.
"I really can't worry about the conditions," Bradley said.
Gulati said two coaches currently with European jobs were among the five finalists and reaffirmed their interest this week in taking over the national team as long as no announcement was made now. Lyon's Gerard Houllier has a contract that runs out at the end of the season and Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz has been coveted by the USSF in the past.
Klinsmann, who coached Germany to the World Cup semifinals, essentially had been the only candidate the USSF had been dealing with. A member of Germany's World Cup championship team in 1990, he lives in California and would have instantly increased the level of respect for U.S. soccer among its opponents.
"How big of a blow?" Gulati said. "We'll find out in 3½ years."
When he withdrew Thursday, Klinsmann wouldn't go into details on why a deal couldn't be closed. Gulati was also circumspect.
"There's a lot of hurdles in trying to get an agreement and trying to get a working relationship done, and we cleared many of them and weren't able to clear all of them. And at some point you run out of time, and that's where we ended up," Gulati said. "We agreed on many, many things. He and I agreed on just about everything, I guess is the best way of putting it. But in the end you've got to agree on everything and we ran out of time in trying to agree on everything."
Gulati said Klinsmann left open the possibility of a relationship at some point.
"We had a terrific conversation yesterday about the future, and not about what might happen in four or five months but about American soccer, about what he might do in the future and the possibility we might work together," Gulati said. "What that means, I couldn't tell you. And I don't want anyone to expect that, yes, he'll take the team in 2008 or in May. That's not what I'm saying at all."
Qualifying for the 2010 World Cup doesn't start until mid-2008. When Steve Sampson was hired as interim coach in 1995 after Bora Milutinovic left, he guided the national team to the Copa America semifinals and wound up getting the job full-time.
"I'm on board with Bob to get rid of the 'interim' tag," star forward Landon Donovan said through the USSF. "I like and respect Bob, and I always have."
Bradley coached Princeton, became a D.C. United assistant in 1996 and then coached Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire, MetroStars and Chivas USA teams.
"I have advantages that others don't have," Bradley said. "I want to make sure that those things count, that in the next six months they show in the play of the team, and then we see where that takes us."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press