Should the Athletes(‘) Council include non-national teamers?

Start with the Ted Stevens Act, the law (Congressional — Sunil Gulati did not write this) that gives organizations such as U.S. Soccer their authority.

From that Act (U.S. Code › Title 36 › Subtitle II › Part B › Chapter 2205 › Subchapter I › § 220501):

(1) “amateur athlete” means an athlete who meets the eligibility standards established by the national governing body or paralympic sports organization for the sport in which the athlete competes.

Note that this is not “amateur” in the sense of playing in the NPSL or the PDL or the Cosmopolitan Soccer League or not being paid. This is “amateur” in the sense that the athlete is eligible (for what, I don’t know) under the standards of the national governing body (NGB, in this case U.S. Soccer).

Related (the next paragraph, in fact):

(2) “amateur athletic competition” means a contest, game, meet, match, tournament, regatta, or other event in which amateur athletes compete.

A few more definitions …

(6) “corporation” means the United States Olympic Committee.

(7) “international amateur athletic competition” means an amateur athletic competition between one or more athletes representing the United States, individually or as a team, and one or more athletes representing a foreign country.

(8) “national governing body” means an amateur sports organization that is recognized by the corporation under section 220521 of this title

Moving ahead to U.S. Code › Title 36 › Subtitle II › Part B › Chapter 2205 › Subchapter II › § 220522 – Eligibility requirements

(a)General.—An amateur sports organization is eligible to be recognized, or to continue to be recognized, as a national governing body only if it—

(10) demonstrates, based on guidelines approved by the corporation, the Athletes’ Advisory Council, and the National Governing Bodies’ Council, that its board of directors and other such governing boards have established criteria and election procedures for and maintain among their voting members individuals who are actively engaged in amateur athletic competition in the sport for which recognition is sought or who have represented the United States in international amateur athletic competition within the preceding 10 years, that any exceptions to such guidelines by such organization have been approved by the corporation, and that the voting power held by such individuals is not less than 20 percent of the voting power held in its board of directors and other such governing boards

Now this is a little interesting. Parse the words here, and you could conclude that the athletes don’t have to be national teamers. It really depends on what the NGB considers an “amateur athlete.”

So unless there’s a paragraph I’m missing, the definition on the USSF Athlete Council site is technically incorrect because it says the Ted Stevens Act defines an athlete as “anyone who has competed for their respective National Team within the last two years OR anyone who has competed in a major world championship within the last ten years.” That definition is indirect — the Act empowers the NGB to make the definition.

The USSF Bylaws are no help. Bylaw 321 says the Athletes’ Council is composed of athletes, and if you go back to Bylaw 109(4), you’ll see them punt that definition back to the Stevens Act.

The definition U.S. Soccer uses is actually spelled out in a set of Athletes’ Council policies, which Chris Kivlehan found:

Side note: It’s a good thing the International Paralympic World Championship is included, because the only type of Paralympic soccer in which the USA has competed is no longer included in the Paralympics. Seriously.

Beach soccer and futsal players are eligible because they can indeed play in World Cups. If you’re curious, here’s the roster for the last Beach Soccer World Cup qualifiers (they didn’t qualify for the finals, but as you can see, qualifiers count for eligibility). Same deal with futsal.

The youth national team path makes things interesting. Here are some people who are still in the pool (corrections welcome, as always) …

  • Gale Agbossoumonde (2009 U20 WC / 2011 U20 WC qualifiers, last of Pittsburgh Riverhounds)
  • Danny Cruz (2009 U20 WC, currently coaching, played for San Francisco Deltas and Real Monarchs in 2017)
  • Dilly Duka (2009 U20 WC, FC Motown)
  • Josh Lambo (2009 U20 WC, now an NFL kicker)
  • Brian Ownby (2009 U20 WC, Louisville City)
  • Joseph Gyau (2011 U20 WC qualifiers, MSV Duisburg)
  • Šaćir Hot (2011 U20 WC qualifiers, somewhere in Germany?)
  • Korey Veeder (2011 U20 WC qualifiers, last of the Cosmos?)
  • Omar Salgado (2011 U20 WC qualifiers, El Paso Locomotive)
  • Juan Pablo Ocegueda (2013 U20 WC, California United II – UPSL)
  • Mikey Lopez (2013 U20 WC, Birmingham Legion)
  • Brandon Allen (2013 U20 WC, Nashville SC)
  • Tyler Turner (2015 U20 WC qual, Elm City Express)

And so forth and so on. You can also find a few women’s youth national team veterans who aren’t playing professionally right now, let alone on the senior national team.

Some of these people have enough time left to serve a four-year term on the Athletes’ Council before their 10 years are up.

But they’re not running.

So you can make a case that the definition of “athlete” should be expanded to include players in pro leagues who were never on a national team. And perhaps there should be a codified split — maybe 6 MNT, 6 WNT, 2 beach, 2 futsal, 2 Paralympics and 2 wild cards. Or something.

But it’s also true that players in the men’s lower divisions could be running for the Council. And they’re not.

Maybe now that more people are paying attention (the Council’s site is new, part of an effort to get the word out and convince more people to get involved), that’ll change.


A few additional bits of info …

When will we know? The election procedures linked from the FAQ say voting runs from Nov. 1 to Nov. 8. The latter date is incorrect. It’s Nov. 16 (Friday).

From those procedures: “The Election Runner results (e.g., the percentage of vote for each candidate) will be posted promptly (approximately 24 hours) after the close of the election.”

When does this election take effect? At the U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting. That’s also when they’ll elect a chair and co-chairs. (Note that the chair and one co-chair are running for re-election to the Council itself.)

Noteworthy: For many years, the three chair/co-chair positions have split — men’s national team, women’s national team, Paralympic. There’s nothing in the policies, procedures, bylaws or anything else that says it has to be that way.

(The “Who’s in, out or running” section has been superseded by this post, and I need to correct one thing from the prior post: Athletes do NOT have a limit of two terms for the Council. They have a two-term limit on the USOC’s Athletes’ Advisory Council, which overlaps with the Athletes Council, but someone could serve two terms as a USOC rep and then another term on the Council but not as the USOC rep and this is giving me a headache.) 

How long have these policies been in place? The policies on the site say “Established in 2003; revised 2018.” (Note: The USSF Board was trimmed from 40 to 15 people in 2005, reflecting the USOC’s efforts to get boards to be somewhat manageable.) In the 2014 AGM report, the Council says this: “Outcome #1: Cleaned up our policies and procedures. We created and passed policy more in line with the Amateur Sports Act.”


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