How specific is too specific?
U.S. Soccer presidential candidate Kyle Martino convened a group of people to come up with some ideas for moving the Federation forward, and he has summarized all of these ideas in a lengthy “Progress Plan.” Doing so is a risk, as he acknowledges:
“I also realize that many of these proposals are significantly more detailed than any yet offered by other candidates and that, in getting more specific, I’m opening myself to criticism. That’s the point. Anyone who can’t handle such an open dialogue isn’t, in my view, qualified for the job.”
And indeed — we can’t view anyone’s proposals as a list of campaign promises. The next USSF president isn’t going to have that kind of power. Such proposals only provide insight into a candidate’s priorities and state of mind. Some of our complaints about candidates being vague are overstated — after 12 years of Sunil Gulati, there’s a significant movement to have U.S. Soccer be a little less top-down. A lot, actually.
So, bearing all that in mind, here’s a quick evaluation of the Martino plan:
Another audit! Martino mentions the fed’s 2016 McKinsey study and points out that he hasn’t been released to the general membership. But he calls for another independent audit. Maybe the fed should release the McKinsey study and have a general discussion of it before investing more time and money in another study?
Pay the president. He’s not the only candidate (or non-candidate) to say so. The idea is to attract candidates who don’t need a day job (or a supportive spouse) and to increase accountability.
New hires. Technical Director, Grassroot Director, Chief Diversity Officer. Not sure why these are under “transparency.” The diversity officer is an idea he has in common with other candidates (which, as with many common ideas among the candidates, is far from a bad thing). He also wants to revive the Diversity Task Force that quietly disappeared in the last year or two.
Domestic Resolution Committee (DRC). Not sure how this would differ from the existing Appeals Committee, though he specifically mentions solidarity/training compensation fees here. And the DRC will come up later.
Much more financial disclosure. Several specific ideas, including an anti-gift policy and records continually posted online. Not sure the latter is practical, and it seems redundant with other items that would disclosed, such as all salaries over $75,000, which would involve significantly more people than the 990 form requires. And if I’m reading this correctly, all Board members would post their tax returns?
50/50 Board/executive staff by 2022. Not sure this is really possible — on the executive side, it would entail firing a bunch of people, and the Board membership is determined mostly be various Councils (Youth, Adult, Pro, Athletes). But this will definitely ramp up the pressure on those constituents to quit sending two men to the Board, over and over and over.
Renegotiate MNT/WNT CBAs. Nothing too specific here, in part because he acknowledges (which some candidates do not) that each negotiation has “unique aspects.” (To give two examples — the men play many more qualifiers while the women play more friendlies, and the women get salaries while the men do not.) The principles are fairness and equality.
Latino outreach. Marketing firm, 10% of budget earmarked toward Latino initiatives such as fields and adult league insurance (how would we determine which fields and leagues are “Latino” enough?), social media. The latter exists but could surely be beefed up.
Equal access to facilities. I’m bringing this one up because of the odd combination of overseers — the DRC (see above) and three independent directors from minority organizations. What is the DRC’s role?
Devote 25% of the USSF budget to bottom of the pyramid — low-income areas and recreation. Like the Latino earmarking proposal, I’m not sure how to distinguish what helps low-income areas and what doesn’t. He touts the “Over/Under” initiative to add futsal goals to basketball courts, but is that something the Federation should be funding directly instead of working with the Foundation and sponsors to do it? Would the goals have to be in underserved areas only?
2026 Fund. Take $1 from every USSF, MLS, USL, NWSL and NASL ticket sold to offset the cost of play in underprivileged communities. That seems quite harsh on the NWSL in particular, but I don’t think people would object to U.S. national team ticket sales being used for this.
Join the Youth Technical Group meetings. These are the meetings between U.S. Youth Soccer, U.S. Club Soccer, AYSO and SAY — a coalition that sprang up in response to the Federation’s heavy-handed youth mandates. The Progress Plan would require the Technical Director to attend every meeting (by phone if needed), and at least once a year, the president and CEO must be there as well. This is a promising idea. I know this group exists, but I have no idea if anyone from the Federation is actually listening.
Hire a Recreation Director within U.S. Soccer. I hear proposals like this from time to time, but I’m not sure what it entails. I did hear someone was working on a coaching curriculum for parent coaches who aren’t going into the pro-coaching pipeline, but I haven’t seen it come to pass.
Eliminate birth chart at U13 Recreation and below. This surely refers to the birth-year age group chart, which a lot of rec leagues are frankly ignoring, anyway. With good reason.
Youth leagues? I don’t quite get where he’s going here. He says he wants to reduce travel costs and have an agreed-upon hierarchy (democratically enforced by the DRC), but his chart includes the same muddled mix of elite leagues we already have.
Support the USASA’s three-tier adult league proposal. The DRC, again, would step in to determine this structure.
Create youth/adult leagues. Not a bad idea to make things a bit more holistic.
NWSL. A couple of points here are unclear, but the gist seems to be that new MLS clubs should either have an NWSL team or participate in a profit-sharing plan that benefits the women’s league.
Professional Paralympics. He says eight of the 10 top nations pay their players. I honestly had no idea. He also wants a national championship to build a “pro pathway.”
Futsal. Get everyone to the table to clear up market confusion. This is a terrific idea. I honestly can’t keep track of the different organizations.
Expand beach soccer calendar. More games.
Promotion/relegation by 2030 (full six-tier system by 2038). He has an extensive timeline that includes steps such as dismantling the single-entity MLS structure by 2024. It’ll be a bit too slow for some tastes, but the steps involved are logical. Except this one — any club created after 2024 will be “non-league” and can’t be promoted into the pro pyramid, which seems odd. What happens when climate change makes North Dakota the country’s top relocation destination? No pro soccer in Fargo?
Succession plan for CEO Dan Flynn. Hard to argue with that.
Open bidding. For all branding/licensing deals and partnerships. This surely seems aimed at SUM.
Build two national “home stadiums.” I can’t stand this idea, frankly. It’s a big country. Spread out the games.
Discuss moving USSF HQ to New York. The rationale is that it’s easier to make business deals there. Perhaps, though I could see the membership balking. Maybe compromise by having a satellite office?
So on the whole — some of these ideas aren’t fully developed, and some may be non-starters. But it’s a strong effort at moving the conversation into specifics beyond the vague platitudes everyone says — reduce costs, focus on coaching education, etc. That’s what this election should be.
Just ditch the stadium idea.