New Zealand Football could lose another national coach in the wake of Anthony Hudson's departure.
It was announced on Thursday that Hudson would not be continuing as All Whites coach, after his contract ended following the 2-0 aggregate loss to Peru last week. The news wasn't a surprise and Hudson is expected to take a role with MLS club Colorado Rapids in the next few days.
But there may be a second departure coming for NZF. The Herald on Sunday understands that All Whites assistant and New Zealand under-20s coach Darren Bazeley could follow Hudson out the door.
Hudson and Bazeley have built a close relationship in the past two years, and Bazeley was his only assistant during the recent playoffs with Peru, with previous assistants Peter Taylor and Alex Armstrong not involved in Wellington or Lima.
Now Bazeley is expected to join Hudson in North America.
Bazeley's experience within NZF will be missed, as he had been in the system a long time. He has been part of five age group World Cup campaigns, dating back to his role with the New Zealand team at the 2009 Fifa Under-17 World Cup.
He also took the Junior All Whites into the knockout stages of this year's Under-20 World Cup, after achieving the same feat with the team in 2015 on home soil.
However, Bazeley is yet to fully convince as a head coach. He had the luxury of an unprecedented build-up to the 2015 Under-20 World Cup — including the two-year Wanderers experiment in the National League — but the team didn't hit any great heights during the tournament itself.
And while this year's Under-20 World Cup had its moments — including a win over Honduras — the team's reliance on a long-ball style disappointed many critics.
But Bazeley, who arrived in Auckland in 2005 to play for the New Zealand Knights, has been a loyal servant of the sport here and has a good reputation for his skills and value as an assistant. He also achieved a good rapport with players, from the top All Whites to the junior members of the squad, and had to carry a significant load during the Peru campaign as Hudson's only specialist assistant coach (Paul Gothard was goalkeeping coach).
NZF has invested significantly in the 45-year-old former Watford, Wolves and Walsall player, and if his departure is confirmed, it will leave a vacuum.
Who could be the next All Whites coach?
Has regularly achieved stunning success with Auckland City, including third place at the 2014 Club World Cup, where his team trumped the champions of Morocco, Africa and North America and took South American giants San Lorenzo to extra time. This year, he oversaw Auckland City's remarkable win at the Lunar Cup in Hong Kong, where they beat K-League club FC Seoul, and he will take his team to yet another Club World Cup next week. He has unrivalled knowledge of the local and Oceania scene.
A coach on the rise. He did stellar work at the Sacred Heart College academy, and has coached the New Zealand Under-17 team in their last two World Cup finals. He has a strong playing pedigree, going all the way from West Auckland to the English Premier League. It's probably too early for the former All Whites captain, given his limited experience coaching senior football, but his time could come in a subsequent cycle.
The only local contender who has previously coached the All Whites, with two games as caretaker manager in 2014. The match against South Africa at Mt Smart that year featured some brilliant midfield interplay, giving a glimpse of a philosophy not generally seen during Hudson's reign. He also coached the Oly-Whites at the 2012 London Olympics. He assisted Darren Bazeley at this year's Under-20 World Cup but has otherwise had a lower profile since 2014 as Western Springs director of football.
Unlikely for sure, but he is being linked to every available job at the moment. His salary would be less than a third of what he received with the Socceroos. But there's much less pressure and profile than the Australian job, which may appeal, as would the chance to rebuild the All Whites' style in his own vision. He would command respect among New Zealand's playing group, but is surely destined for a European, Asian or Middle Eastern appointment.