Reign FC announced Friday that it has appointed Farid Benstiti as their head coach. The French native brings two decades of coaching experience and a championship pedigree to the position, having won titles in three different countries. Benstiti is the third head coach in Reign FC history: Laura Harvey led the team for five seasons, from 2013 – 2017, while Vlatko Andonovski was at the helm for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Harvey and Andonovski have since taken roles with U.S. Soccer, with Harvey coaching the U-20 women’s national team and Andonovski leading the senior WNT.
Benstiti is one of the most experienced and accomplished managers in women’s professional soccer. Benstiti has delivered eight domestic league titles in three countries (France, Russia, and China), taken both OL and PSG to the UEFA Women’s Champions League final, and has worked with some of the world’s best female footballers during his 20 years as a coach.
“We are excited to welcome Farid to the Reign FC family,” said Reign FC CEO Bill Predmore. “Our goal was to find a world-class coach that has a proven ability to deliver titles at the top levels of the game. We also sought a leader who would both appreciate and enhance the unique culture we developed over the past seven years. I selected Farid because I believe he embodies our values, shares our ambitions, and has demonstrated he is capable of leading our team to its ultimate objective of a NWSL Championship.”
Bensiti was selected after a months-long search that was comprehensive, rigorous, and inclusive. Led by Predmore, the search committee also included members of the Reign FC technical staff and select senior players from the squad.
Notable metrics for the search include:
– 38 candidates were included in the initial candidate pool
– A total of 20 candidates were interviewed
– Of those interviewed, 40% (8) were female and 60% (12) were male
– Candidates were coaching at various levels of the game: College (3), Pro (9), International (8)
– Seven different nationalities were represented amongst the candidates interviewed
– Six of the twenty coaches interviewed most recently worked in the United States
“Interest in the opportunity was humbling, as it far exceeded our expectations. We had the chance to meet and speak with some of the best coaches in the game and we are deeply appreciative of the time all of the candidates invested in the process,” said Predmore. “We were pleased in that the process yielded several fantastic candidates, but as we approached the conclusion of the process it was clear that Farid’s experience, record of success, and approach to the game made him the clear favorite for the position.”
Born in Lyon, France in 1967, Benstiti began his professional career as a midfielder with Olympique Lyonnais in 1984. Benstiti spent 16 years as a professional player at various French clubs before becoming the head coach of FC Lyon’s women’s side in 2001.
When FC Lyon was acquired by OL Groupe in 2004 and rebranded as Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, Benstiti was retained as manager and led the club to four consecutive Division 1 Féminin Championships from 2006-2010, along with three Coupe de France trophies.
With OL Groupe’s recent acquisition of Reign FC, Benstiti feels that his familiarity with Olympique Lyonnais’ culture, coupled with the vision for Reign FC he shares with club CEO Bill Predmore, will help push the club to greater heights in 2020 and beyond.
“To coach Reign FC is really different than coaching any other team in the U.S.,” Benstiti said. “I think it will be easy to collaborate with Bill. This was important in my coming to Reign FC. When I met him, I realized that we agreed on a lot of things. Our vision about women’s football was very similar.”
After leaving OL in 2010, Benstiti found success in Russia, leading WFC Rossiyanka to a Russian Women’s Championship title in 2012 while simultaneously serving as the head coach of the Russian women’s national team.
A return to France saw Benstiti take the helm of Paris Saint-Germain, whom he guided to four straight second-place finishes and an appearance in the finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Now, after three league titles in the Chinese Women’s Super League with Dalian Quanjian, Benstiti comes to the Puget Sound hoping to bring further success to Reign FC while respecting what has made the club special.
“The biggest challenge is not changing mindsets,” Benstiti said. “The club has to keep its values of solidarity, respect for the players, and retain its family spirit. Of course, we want to improve the club, but we have to make sure the transition is smooth. The most important thing is to work together toward the same goal: the success of the club. I believe that our players and coaches all must do everything to push toward our new ambitions for Reign FC.”
As for the specific style of play he expects the club to play under him, Benstiti expressed a desire to fit the tactics to the players, rather than the players to the tactics.
“The style that we’ll play depends on the qualities of the players. Of course, I want everyone to enjoy playing a good attacking style with plenty of goals, but sometimes that’s not enough. We have to respect some principles to remain a strong team. I’ll do my best to make sure the team is in a position to play well every week.”
Benstiti inherits a Reign FC side from U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski that has made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and went 10-6-8 in 2019, but arrives in the United States looking to add to the club’s trophy case, which contains two NWSL Shields. He knows that the process of adapting to the league will take time.
“The NWSL is a new challenge that will certainly be more intense and more difficult because of the stiffer competition,” Benstiti said. “Everybody can beat everybody. Every match will be a fight. That’s why this will be different, especially compared to managing in France. Claiming that our expectation is to win the championship would be pretentious for my first year. I want my players to train hard and to play hard for every minute of every game. If we do that, the results will take care of themselves.”
Above all, Benstiti expressed his enthusiasm for the new challenge at Reign FC and in the NWSL.
“I’m excited to begin working with the club,” Benstiti said. “The quality of the players that we have is a great motivation for me. I know many of them and I want to help them to try to be better, even though the 2019 season was good. Every year we must do more than the year before.”