SBD/October 12, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Analysis: U.S. Soccer Needs Reboot, Including Replacing Sunil Gulati As President

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Gulati has been U.S. Soccer President since '06 and is eligible for one more term
U.S. Soccer needs a "massive reboot" following the USMNT failing to qualify for the '18 FIFA World Cup, and it has to "start at the top with the replacement" of U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, according to Grant Wahl of SI.com. Gulati has held the role since '06, and as "coincidence would have it, the next election for a new president is in February." Recently enacted term limit rules would "allow Gulati to run for one more term, but he would be wise to announce as soon as possible that he will not seek another four years." Gulati has had "successes under his watch," as the USWNT won the '15 Women's World Cup and earned Gold Medals at the '08 Beijing and '12 London Games. Additionally, U.S. Soccer has "certainly found economic stability over the last decade" and has a "more powerful voice than ever in the halls of FIFA." But 12 years "at the top is plenty" for any U.S. Soccer boss, and the trends on the field have been "backsliding dramatically." Gulati also has "made some big mistakes" regarding the head coach for both national teams. What U.S. Soccer needs at the top are "fewer social connectors, backroom operators and business experts and more people who are truly savvy when it comes to soccer" (SI.com, 10/11). In S.F., Ann Killion writes there "should be a new" U.S. Soccer president, as Gulati is "largely responsible for the direction of the program, which is clearly flawed." The initial comments from Gulati and USMNT coach Bruce Arena after Tuesday's loss to Trinidad & Tobago "smacked of pure denial -- that there was no need for big changes." Killion: "That is completely wrong." U.S. Soccer and MLS "must take hard looks at the way they conduct business." The failures of U.S. Soccer are "too massive to ignore" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/12). In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald wrote with "all the changes that are needed, a change at the top seems a good place to start." The USSF should "find a way for Gulati to step aside and focus on his FIFA role, and let someone else run U.S. Soccer" (PHILLY.com, 10/11).

NEED FOR A NEW VOICE: In California, Scott Reid writes the "real debacle, the real crime" of not qualifying for the World Cup would be U.S. Soccer "failing to take this opportunity to have the brutally honest, soul-searching conversation about the American game, top to bottom, it should have had more than a decade ago." The disappointing showing on Tuesday "came from a generation of entitled and soft national team players" and was a product of MLS, "whose view of itself is nearly as over inflated as the ego" of Gulati. The conversation needs to start without Gulati, who has "breathlessly chased power within FIFA with a blind ambition while failing to address the American game's glaring problems." U.S. Soccer "cannot move forward" with Gulati on top, as the USMNT under his watch has "failed to qualify for the last two Olympic Games and now pulled off the unthinkable" of missing the World Cup (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/12). SI.com's Brian Straus wrote Gulati "burdened himself and U.S. Soccer" with former USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann's "unearned promotion and contract extension" ahead of the '14 World Cup, then "waited too long to fire him once it was clear" in late '15 that the team was lost (SI.com, 10/11). ESPN's Pablo Torre noted Gulati has "made a lot of money for U.S. Soccer," but Tuesday marked the "most humiliating night in the history of U.S. Soccer.” The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw: "When you're the president of an organization whose team has just failed miserably, you’re inclined to say, ‘We don’t need wholesale changes here,’ because that might include me” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/11).

HAT IN THE RING
: In Boston, Joe Halpern noted Boston-based attorney Steve Gans is one of several people that could run against Gulati, and he said following Tuesday's loss, "This is just part of a larger problem -- problems with our entire system and leadership and judgment. It just makes me and a lot of other people more convinced that we need a change." Asked why he believes he is qualified to lead the USSF, Gans said, "I understand all of the constituencies involved. I have a pretty good finger on the pulse of soccer, and I feel I bring good judgment and leadership skills" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 10/11).
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