UPDATE 1-Soccer-Markgraf named general manager of U.S. women's team

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Aug 12 (Reuters) - U.S. Soccer on Monday appointed former player Kate Markgraf as general manager of the World Cup-winning women's team where she will lead the search for a new head coach following Jill Ellis' announcement last month that she would step down.

Markgraf, who was part of the world title winning team in 1999, said she would not rush the decision on who should helm the squad, which now turns its attention to qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"Our goal is to have that position filled as quickly as possible but not at the determent of not picking the right person," she told reporters on a call.

Asked if she would prefer to hire a woman for the job, Markgraf said that she would but added that hiring the best candidate is paramount.

"As far as it related to men and women and the selection... we of course would consider both candidates but I would of course like to hire a woman if all things are equal," she said.

"In the end it will come down to the best candidate regardless of gender."

Markgraf will also manage the overall technical plan for the Women's National Team program, which includes the hiring of youth national team coaches and staff.

"We're thrilled to have Kate as the first general manager of our women's national team," said Carlos Cordeiro, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

"Having won multiple championships, she's truly steeped in the culture of the program," he said of the two-time Olympic gold medallist.

"At a time when more countries around the world are investing heavily in women's soccer and competition is getting more intense, Kate will help ensure that we achieve excellence across all our women's teams and programs, both at the Federation and across the United States."

Cordeiro on Monday also announced that another former player, Earnie Stewart, would leave his position as general manager of the U.S. men's team to become the first sporting director of U.S. Soccer.

Stewart, who helped in the process of finding and hiring current head coach Gregg Berhalter, played in three World Cups for the national side. (Reporting by Rory Carroll Editing by Christian Radnedge)