USSF presidential election guide

Let’s meet the candidates. And let’s crowd-source this information — send me something on Twitter, by email or through the contact form here.

(You can also scroll to the bottom for a log of updates.)

The goal is to round up interviews, comments, etc. Any help is appreciated. (Well, within reason. Please don’t send me your 4,000-word screed on one candidate and then wonder why I didn’t add the whole thing. I’m thinking links and the occasional proposal.)

For “proposals,” I’ve avoided the vague platitudes. Everyone wants more accessibility (lower costs) for youth soccer. Everyone wants better pay for women, whether they call it “equal” (which would entail removing the salaries WNT players want) or not. Everyone wants transparency, or so they say. I tried to get unique suggestions that give some insight into what they would do differently from the other seven.

I’ll offer a quick analysis, but again, I’m not doing an endorsement. I wanted to find a more random / more interesting way of listing them, and I initially did it by age. But that could be seen as age-ism, so I took a poll, and it appears (unscientifically) people are OK with listing them in order of when they declared their candidacy. So I’ve done that.


STEVE GANS

Age: Haven’t found it yet. Finished undergrad in 1982, so upper 50s.

Playing experience: Brandeis University, briefly with Baltimore Blast (indoor)

Other soccer experience: Consultant for players and clubs (Professional Soccer Advisors Inc.), board member of FC Boston, parent with experience dealing with Development Academy, youth coach, adult player

Career: Lawyer, book publisher

Declared candidacy: Sept. 13 (declared interest several months earlier)

Twitter: @stevegans2018 (somewhat active) / Site: stevegans2018.com

Funding: Self, plus three friends who are soccer dads but have no other interest and no business that would come before the Board. He is also continuing to work, though he has reduced his workload during the campaign and would presumably do so as president. (Either that, or he’d just go without sleep for four years.)

Proposals: See the platform on his site.

  • A Soccer Summit in the first 60 days of his tenure.
  • Moratorium of USSF’s effort to centralize referee administrator responsibilities
  • Scholarships and field development
  • Women’s National Team will play on artificial turf no more than the men’s team does, and a task force will look into all playing conditions, training conditions and development in women’s soccer
  • Search Committee for next men’s coach
  • Full review of Development Academy that would include exploring whether to allow players to play high school soccer without cumbersome waivers/leaves
  • Separate national team coaching and technical director roles
  • Scout independent, unaffiliated environments
  • “Good Housekeeping standards” for youth clubs to provide some clarity for parents on what each club or league offers
  • Unified competitive schedule for youth soccer (getting different youth organizations in same umbrella)
  • Reversing the birth-year mandate in youth soccer for recreational programs

Interviews: 

Endorsements: 

  • Rhode Island Soccer Association (Twitter; adult association with vote)

Analysis: If anyone has the right to feel aggrieved by the way this election has played out, it’s Gans. He spent months laying the groundwork for a campaign against incumbent Sunil Gulati and prodded U.S. Soccer for some clarity about how a contested election (a rarity in the Federation) would work. A campaign flyer devotes most of a page to Gulati’s shortcomings — everything from putting USSF on the hook for Jurgen Klinsmann’s severance to failing to appear at a congressional hearing. Then everyone but Gulati jumped into the race. His background is strong, but can he differentiate himself from the field?


ERIC WYNALDA

Age: 48

Playing experience: Hall of Famer. Retired as all-time leading scorer for men’s national team (since passed). Played in Bundesliga and MLS.

Other soccer experience: Coached Cal FC to Open Cup upsets, served as manager and technical director of NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks, worked as color commentator for ESPN, then analyst/commentator for Fox and host of Wynalda Talks Football on Sirius XM. Also employed by (but on leave from) embryonic pro team California United. And a parent of kids at several different stages of youth soccer.

Career: Mostly soccer

Declared candidacy: Oct. 21-ish

Twitter: @EricWynalda (quite active) / Site: ericwynalda.org

Funding: Self/family plus a few business professionals and Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva. He has kept up an exhausting travel schedule.

Proposals:

  • Push to switch pro leagues to the fall-to-spring calendar used in the biggest European leagues to align transfer windows and give U.S. players more opportunities to move.
  • Push MLS to participate in a promotion/relegation system.
  • Mandatory competitive bidding for USSF contracts (say, marketing rights)
  • Negotiate the men’s and women’s CBA at the same time
  • Turn player development over to the clubs, with USSF as facilitator

Endorsements: 

  • NorCal Premier Soccer (Twitter; U.S. Club Soccer youth/adult league with no direct vote)
  • NASL?? (can’t find official record of it, but remaining owners are backers; pro league with vote via Pro Council)
  • NPSL (site; amateur league with vote via Adult Council)
  • Paul Lapointe (Twitter; former candidate with no vote)
  • NISA (site; pro league yet to launch with no direct vote)
  • Illinois Soccer Association (all over site; adult association with votes)
  • New Hampshire Soccer Association (PDF; joint association with votes)

Interviews: 

Analysis: Please don’t hold the rabid Twitter supporters against him. Eric Wynalda is not Donald Trump, an allegation he refuted pretty well in speaking with Wahl. Nor is he the temperamental player who got red-carded in the 1990 World Cup. He’s a thoughtful guy who is out to build consensus. He still faces some skepticism over his financial backing from Riccardo Silva, the co-leader of a lawsuit that seems determined to scorch the earth beneath the federation. But if you have questions about that, just ask him. (And he volunteers on his Athletes’ Council responses that he has made it clear that no donor will receive preferential treatment from U.S. Soccer.) He’s easily the most accessible of the candidates, and that trait makes his consensus-building ideals realistic. He’s not the runaway favorite that he might appear to be on Twitter, but he has racked up a lot of endorsements from leagues and associations, and he’s probably the front-runner.


CARLOS CORDEIRO

Age: 61 (not sure of birthday)

Playing experience: None

Other soccer experience: Joined U.S. Soccer Board of Directors as an independent director in 2007, was de facto treasurer for may years, elected VP in 2016. Also on CONCACAF Council and FIFA’s Stakeholders Committee.

Career: Retired partner at Goldman Sachs

Declared candidacy: Nov. 1

Twitter: @CACSoccer (little activity) / Site: carlos4soccer.com

Funding: Self

Proposals: 

  • Membership Department at USSF
  • Year-round National Training Center
  • Technical Committee, to be chaired by an athlete on the Board
  • Commercial Committee, to be chaired by an independent director, to oversee media rights and so forth
  • General Managers, one for men and one for women, who report to CEO rather than President
  • Full-time Director of Diversity
  • More scholarships and grants for youth players and programs

Interviews: 

Analysis: His ambitious goals include a lot of national team wins and expanding USSF from its current $125-million-ish-a-year turnover to $500 million. He does indeed have the most impressive business resume in the field with the possible exception of Kathy Carter. But he’s awkwardly positioned here. He’s status quo in the sense that he was long seen as Sunil Gulati’s right-hand man, but he’s trying to run on a reform platform — note that his proposed “Commercial Committee” would step on SUM’s toes. Can he convince anyone he’s a reformer, or will he fall between those two stools of insider and outsider? Don’t forget, though, that he won the last contested election in U.S. Soccer — the 2016 vice presidential race against incumbent Mike Edwards and longtime Board member Kevin Payne. Surely some of that support remains. Can he retain that support while keeping the lowest public profile of the eight candidates?


MIKE WINOGRAD

Age: 47 (not sure of birthday)

Playing experience: Lafayette College, then professionally in Israel. Also played for the USA at masters level in the Maccabiah Games.

Other soccer experience: Executive with start-up Staten Island Vipers in mid-1990s, assistant coach at the University of Richmond, local soccer boards, parent of Development Academy player.

Career: Lawyer and adjunct professor of law at Fordham

Declared candidacy: Nov. 1

Twitter: @WinografUSSF (not active at all until January) / Site: winogradussf.com

Funding: Self

Proposals:

  • A detailed plan for addressing pay-to-play (see the ESPN FC podcast below — it’s too detailed to summarize here)
  • Push toward promotion/relegation by strengthening lower divisions and, as an interim step, having “guest clubs” earn their way into the top division
  • At least one USSF training center in each state with a full-time state director responsible for scouting and training coaches
  • Give men and women the same pay structure if they want it. If not, then work to make it equivalent. (Remember: Under current system, the women’s team players receive salaries from USSF; the men do not.)
  • Create a second division women’s pro league in addition to the Division 1 NWSL.

Interviews: 

Analysis: Those who have listened to or read about Winograd, including fellow candidates, declare themselves impressed. He grasps the issues, and he understands that the president needs to be someone who works to fix the “fracturing” of many stakeholders. But he faces an uphill battle when it comes to name recognition. Other candidates are famous former players or experienced insiders — aside from Gans, who had a head start of several months. He also stays out of the social media fray, for better or for worse. But he has done a lot of interviews and come across well in the candidate forums. A dark horse in this race?


PAUL CALIGIURI

Age: 53

Playing experience: Hall of Famer. Scored a goal that is always in the conversation for the biggest U.S. goal ever, a long-range effort in Trinidad that got the U.S. men to the 1990 World Cup after a 40-year absence. Also played professionally in Germany and in MLS.

Other soccer experience: Former USSF Board member and Athletes Council member. Former coach (men’s and women’s) at Cal Poly Pomona, current coach with NPSL’s Orange County club and a youth club administrator/coach with Pateadores.

Career: Mostly soccer

Declared candidacy: Nov. 3

Twitter: @PaulCaligiuri20 (rarely active) / Site: paulcaligiuri.com

Funding: Self

Proposals:

  • “Salaries should be equal” between men and women. (We’ll need some clarity on this — again, men do not receive salaries.)
  • Futsal league for women; lobby FIFA for women’s futsal World Cup. (Note: There are a couple of women’s futsal world championships, but not one organized by FIFA.)
  • Place the Development Academy (except for teams affiliated with MLS and NWSL teams) under the Olympic Development Program (ODP).
  • State Performance Development Task Forces and Youth Development Training Centers
  • A new curriculum (USSF has never officially said so, but the 2011 Reyna curriculum appears to be gone)
  • Cut adult soccer registration fees (currently $2/player; youth pay $1)
  • Train and empower high school coaches to scout players

Interviews: 

Analysis: He’s running a strange, low-profile campaign, and he has seemed ill at ease in candidate forums. Even on the Athletes’ Council questionnaire, one of the few chances we’ve had to examine his thinking, his answers often seem incomplete — one, an answer on the role of the president in USSF, was a literal list of presidential duties taken in part from the USSF bylaws. But when he brings an idea to the table, it’s interesting. I only came up with three proposals out of his written work, but two of them are unique and provocative. (“Equal pay” is a worthwhile topic, but saying “salaries should be equal” doesn’t really address the issue’s complexities.) He also took a stand for equality with a rare public statement on the relative voting strengths of MLS and the NWSL.


KYLE MARTINO

Age: 36 (will turn 37 on Feb. 19)

Playing experience: Columbus Crew, Los Angeles Galaxy, a few U.S. call-ups, career ended early by injury.

Other soccer experience: Color commentator and studio analyst, first for ESPN and now for NBC.

Career: Mostly TV, but also some in financial services

Declared candidacy: Nov. 6

Twitter: @kylemartino (very active) / Site: everyonesgameusa.com

Funding: GoFundMe and some private donors disclosed to Grant Wahl.

Proposals:

  • Full Progress Plan released Jan. 15
  • Will step down if U.S. men or women flop in World Cups
  • Technical advisor and “Captains Committee”
  • Pay the president to attract candidates and increase accountability
  • Grassroots Director
  • Chief Diversity Officer
  • Transactions posted online in real time
  • Post vendor contracts over $100,000 online
  • Bimonthly press conference by president, national team coaches and technical directors

Interviews: 

Endorsements: 

  • South Carolina Youth Soccer Association (Twitter; youth association with votes)

Analysis: He has the support of global superstars such as David Beckham (whose effort to put an MLS club in Miami has been delayed for years) and Thierry Henry. He’s also the target of some social media attacks for whatever reason, and his Athletes’ Council questionnaire kicked up controversy over his implication that the pivotal men’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica was played in Red Bull Arena under pressure from SUM, drawing a rapid denunciation from U.S. Soccer. In the meantime, he’s bringing his youthful enthusiasm and energy to what amounts to a giant brainstorming session — he has held a summit to discuss ideas and will release a full plan later in January.


KATHY CARTER

Age: 48 (not sure of birthday)

Playing experience: Played at William and Mary, then continued to play at adult level. Not exactly a lot of pro options for women in her day, so accusing her of “not being a soccer person” is quite ridiculous and inherently sexist.

Other soccer experience: President of Soccer United Marketing. She’s on leave now and will resign from SUM if elected.

Career: President of Soccer United Marketing

Declared candidacy: Dec. 5

Twitter: @soccerkcarter (not very active) / Site: teamkathycarter.com

Funding: Self/boyfriend

Proposals:

  • Hire a Chief Diversity Officer who reports to the CEO
  • Lean on FIFA for bigger bonuses for women’s competitions
  • General Manager for the “sporting side” of USSF, with Directors and a full staff underneath

Interviews: 

Endorsements:

  • Eastern New York State Soccer Association (Twitter; adult association with votes)

Analysis: Soccer United Marketing is both the answer and the question. She’s proud of what the organization has done, telling Grant Wahl that SUM “actually generated the majority of the profits for soccer over the last 15 years.” And if you go back historically (which I have — and yes, I regret the subtitle, which wasn’t my idea), you know that without SUM, MLS would have collapsed in 2002, and no, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that it would’ve been replaced with some big-money pro/rel league system. The questions now are whether SUM’s more recent dealings have been in the broader best interest of U.S. Soccer and whether Carter could be adequately placed at arm’s length on all matters related to SUM and MLS, which are intertwined companies. (That said, read her intriguing responses on SUM to the Athletes’ Council.) She’s not saying much in public, nor has she reacted to fiascos such as the “Garber and Gulati aren’t lobbying for Carter but here’s this state association guy who pledged support to ‘the girl’ when she was presented someone who would pretty much be Gulati 2.0, with Gulati’s help” story that Grant Wahl covered. Like Cordeiro, she’s going to have issues gaining the public’s trust unless she comes forward and gives a few more details.


HOPE SOLO

Age: 36

Playing experience: You’re kidding, right? 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medals, 2011 World Cup runner-up, 2015 World Cup champion. Also briefly in WUSA, three years in WPS, four years in NWSL and a bit of European experience. You can’t have a conversation about the best goalkeepers of all time without her.

Other soccer experience: Nothing yet; she hasn’t even officially retired as a player.

Career: Speaking engagements.

Declared candidacy: Dec. 7

Twitter: @hopesolo (not as active as it used to be) / Site: hopesolo.com

Funding: Self

Proposals:

  • Limit executive sessions. (As the guy who has spent too many hours reading Board minutes, I have to say this is a terrific idea. I’ve served on and covered boards that go into executive session only to discuss sensitive personnel matters. The USSF Board goes into executive session at the drop of a hat.)
  • State/Regional Town Halls.
  • Rewrite the bylaws into “plain English.”
  • Equal pay for women. (Not sure of the implication for women’s national team salaries.)

Interviews: 

Analysis: In a different election with fewer candidates, Solo’s presence would have more impact. Her story as a great player who needed help to get through the financial requirements of youth soccer is compelling, and she would ramp up the pressure to treat women’s soccer more fairly. In this election, we have seven other candidates who are tackling women’s issues and “pay to play” in youth soccer — you can judge each one’s sincerity for yourself, but it’s safe to say they’re major campaign issues. Meanwhile, she has had some missteps — in her Athletes’ Council answers, she didn’t mention the NWSL even when asked, and in a disastrous podcast interview (see “Why I’m Not” above), she came across as incredulous that women on the national team would want to be paid the same as each other, and she took shots at other women over makeup and other cosmetic decisions. Perhaps these missteps are simply diplomatic errors, but diplomacy is part of the position for which she’s running. She has a lot of insights, but so far, this doesn’t seem to be the best forum to get them out there.


UPDATES

Jan. 17: Added ESPN interview and other details to Winograd entry.

Jan. 15: Added American Outlaws questionnaires and first two forums; added Martino Progress Plan.

Jan. 12: Added endorsements; added Gans BBC interview; added ESPN questionnaires.

Jan. 10: Changed order to the date candidates declared; added Caligiuri site.

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