SafeSport, SUM and other U.S. Soccer issues

Funny thing about engaging with Soccer Twitter: You can find yourself assigned a lot of volunteer work. A bunch of people who will never donate to your Patreon page or buy a book from your Amazon affiliate links (in some cases, they even think it’s an imposition to go to your blog, where you’ll make 0.01 cents on their visit) will demand that you do X, Y or Z, just because you’re a soccer journalist.

But every once in a while, there’s a legitimate question that I can answer. That happened this morning …

Good question, and I did some recent reporting on it that was trimmed from a story — not for any nefarious reason but because it was a long story, and this didn’t fit that well.

So here’s the part that was trimmed:


The U.S. governing bodies for several other sports — gymnastics, volleyball, taekwondo and swimming — are dealing with horrific sexual-abuse scandals. Congress has responded with the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 was signed — despite the name, it was signed in 2018 (Feb. 14).

A month later, U.S. Soccer member programs manager Caitlin Carducci discussed the law with state associations and affiliates. A couple of weeks later, U.S. Soccer issued a statement on the basics, specifically the need to report abuse allegations to law enforcement within 24 hours.

U.S. Club Soccer has gone a few steps farther, requiring online SafeSport training of its members.

U.S. Club’s Kevin Payne stresses the urgency. A well-meaning coach, he says, could end up violating federal law by taking internal steps without meeting the 24-hour window to report to law enforcement.

“People who’ve devoted their lives to youth sports will have their lives destroyed because they didn’t report something quickly enough,” Payne says.

So the U.S. Club effort here is essential. It costs a bit more money, but it’s one soccer expense that is absolutely worthwhile. Better to pay a little more now than defend a lawsuit or deal with the horror of abuse.


So there you have it. Some info compiled from public statements, then a bit more from an interview, along with some context and even a recommendation. Do with it what you will. It’s a good question, it’s an issue I’ll keep pursuing down the road, and everyone else should feel free to keep asking as well.

Then there’s SUM, on which I get stuff like this:

Good grief. We know immigrant children are being separated from their parents. We don’t know SUM, USSF and MLS are doing anything objectionable beyond the things we know about (to which some people have objected — some reasonably, some a little tinfoil-y).

I think that’s reasonable. And perhaps people can come up with good ways to apply pressure for more transparency. Carlos Cordeiro said he’d be more transparent, and he actually has worked as VP to change the governance. That may not be enough, and there’s nothing wrong with pressing USSF to open up a bit more, especially when the next deal comes up.

I might be able to answer other questions:

From my reporting before and after the election, the full board (including people who aren’t part of the supposed cabal) has always approved everything with SUM —  unanimously. I even specifically asked if the “unanimous votes” were all shenanigans, like the local hospital board I once covered that had a split vote (roughly 6-3 or something like that) but immediately moved to let the record show that the vote was unanimous. I was told — again, by people in and out of the supposed cabal — that the votes were legitimately unanimous.

Now — you could argue that the board shouldn’t be holding so many executive sessions, or that the minutes should reflect what was discussed in executive session. (Not “we all ganged up to silence a Youth Council rep and then gave a national-team coach a negative performance review,” but perhaps “the board then went into executive session, where it discussed the renewal of Soccer United Marketing’s contract and the latest complaint from the North American Suing League.”) I’d frankly like to see a delegate raise that point from the floor at the next Annual General Meeting, if not sooner.

But yelling at one freelance journalist (which, to be clear, Nick isn’t doing) isn’t going to get us very far. I’m actually in less of a position to get to anything than, say, this guy …

Good on you for asking, Chris.

And yeah, perhaps it would help if people with full-time journalism gigs would ask. So go harass the people swimming in venture capital at The Athletic.

Because from my perch on the thinnest branch of the U.S. soccer tree, I see things this way:

  1. It’s a lot easier to get answers when you’re (A) inside the organization or (B) working for a major news organization.
  2. In terms of major issues facing U.S. Soccer right now, I consider the January formalizing of the SUM deal very far down the list. For these reasons:
    1. USSF and SUM were demonstrably acting with a deal already in place well before 2018.
    2. At some point, we have to ask why we’re so angry about a deal that provides USSF a considerable amount of money. Same with Copa Centenario. You’re welcome to argue that the SUM deal and other USSF governance oddities give MLS too much power, but you don’t need me to spend a month investigating things for free to make your case there.
    3. Youth soccer is a freaking mess, and that’s where every U.S. player starts (aside from those we import from Germany).

Besides, there’s a lot of nastiness in the world today. I often think about ditching soccer journalism entirely to do something that might help turn back the fascist tide in this country. That might happen one day.

In the meantime, if it’s OK with everyone on Twitter, I’m going to get back to youth soccer.

After the morning World Cup games, of course.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s