NASL v USSF: Meet the nine people at issue in conspiracy claim

 UPDATE: The judge denied the NASL’s request for an injunction, and the independent actors within USSF were indeed a key factor: 

Also, the Board is certainly demonstrating some independence now, seeking a special meeting on “U.S. national team coach hirings,” though it appears USSF CEO Dan Flynn has convinced everyone to wait until the regularly scheduled early December meeting, given the multitude of things USSF is handling at the moment. See Michael Lewis’ stories on the request and the delay.

ORIGINAL POST …

Expanding on a point I made 12 days ago

If you believe U.S. Soccer’s lawyers, the NASL has to prove that nine members of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors are conspiring to keep down the Cosmos and whoever else is still in the league.

From Brian Straus’ SI story on the suit:

conspiracy

The nine in question would be the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors minus the following:

  • The Recused: Sunil Gulati (former MLS employee), Don Garber (MLS commissioner), Carlos Bocanegra (MLS player-turned-technical director), John Collins (USL counsel; at-large Board member), Steven Malik (owner of North Carolina FC, currently but reportedly not much longer an NASL member)
  • The One in Favor: John Motta (USASA president, former USSF VP)

Which leaves …

Carlos Cordeiro, vice president: A former Goldman Sachs man brought onto the board in 2007 when it reorganized to include independent directors (people who don’t come onto the board through their various affiliations — state associations, USASA, U.S. Club Soccer, MLS, NWSL, etc.). He defeated incumbent Mike Edwards to become vice president in 2016, and just today (Nov. 1), he announced that he will run for president.

Chris Ahrens, Athletes Council: The 2012 Paralympian is also an adapted PE teacher. His upbeat Twitter feed deserves more followers.

Angela Hucles, Athletes Council: Needs no introduction to women’s soccer fans who remember the 2008 Olympics, in which the longtime utility player suddenly turned into a goal-scoring machine in Abby Wambach’s absence. She’s also one of those overachievers — broadcaster, U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year, former Women’s Sports Foundation president, etc.

(Athletes are required by the U.S. Olympic Committee to have 20% of the vote, so they have three on the 15 Board slots. The third is Bocanegra’s.)

Richard Moeller, Adult Council: Vice president of the USASA, which governs adult (mostly amateur but with a smattering of semipro teams) soccer in the USA. He’s also the president of the Florida State Soccer Association. He is not the Rich Möller who coaches in Maryland.

(Motta, the USASA president, is the other Adult representative. Note that the Pro Council had no voters — Garber and Malik are its two reps.)

Jesse Harrell, Youth Council: Chairman of U.S. Youth Soccer and a longtime administrator from South Texas. Also a State Farm agent for nearly 35 years.

Tim Turney, Youth Council: Past president of the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association.

Donna Shalala, independent director: Remember the Clinton Administration? She was in that — Secretary of Health and Human Services. She went on to be president of the University of Miami for 14 years and left to run the Clinton Foundation. She suffered a stroke in 2015 — perhaps not coincidentally, she missed several Board meetings. And this tweet after the apocalypse in Trinidad was interesting:

Val Ackerman, independent director: I’ve only met two of the nine people listed here. Hucles is obvious — I covered that team. I met Ackerman in, of all places, the USA TODAY cafeteria. She was president of the WNBA at the time. Now she’s the commissioner of the Big East.

Lisa Carnoy, independent director: The newest Board member joined in August. She’s a banking executive and vice chair of the Board of Trustees at Columbia, which happens to be where Gulati teaches and where the soccer field is named for key USSF accuser and Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso.

It’s worth mentioning that Gulati has been involved in the search for each independent directory. By USSF bylaws, the president serves on the Nominating and Governance Committee. If you go back through Board minutes, you’ll see that Gulati (and others) worked with consulting firms to find people for these spots. You can also see that ethnic and gender diversity were key factors — the Board has never had a white male independent director — which seems only sensible given the general lack of diversity in the Board’s other positions.

Many of the same Board members — Cordeiro, Ahrens, Harrell, Turney, Shalala and possibly Ackerman (who joined either just before or just after that vote) — participated in the vote to approve the NASL’s provisional Division II sanctioning for the 2017 season.

Also worth noting: The Pro League Task Force, which makes recommendations on sanctioning, is currently composed of Cordeiro, Ahrens and USSF CEO Dan Flynn.

If you want some professional analysis of all this, check out Steven Bank’s epic Twitter thread. The impression I get is that the judge isn’t seeing a concerted action to do anything other than deny the NASL the Division II sanction it hasn’t earned. But I’m not the least bit sure about that, and there’s certainly a chance that the judge wants to hear more. Would she issue the injunction just to toss the NASL a lifeline until everything else can be heard?

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