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Volume 25 No. 66

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Cordeiro has been a board member of the USSF since '07, serving on a variety of committees
Photo: TWITTER

U.S. Soccer Federation VP Carlos Cordeiro on Saturday was elected president of the governing body, "prevailing after three rounds of voting at the organization’s annual meeting," according to Kevin Draper of the N.Y. TIMES. The decision was a "surprisingly straightforward end to a three-month campaign marked by dueling visions, whispered rumors, personal attacks and impassioned last-minute lobbying." Cordeiro has been a board member of the USSF since '07, "serving on a variety of committees." Draper noted no candidate received the required 50% plus one vote "necessary to win on the first two ballots." Cordeiro received 36% of the "vote in the first round," followed closely by Soccer United Marketing President Kathy Carter at 35%. Then came Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino with 14% and 9%, respectively. In the second round, Cordeiro’s total went up to 42% and Carter’s fell to 33%. At that point, MLS "switched its votes to Cordeiro, setting the stage for his victory in the third round," when he received 69%. Although MLS voters "switched from Carter to Cordeiro after the second ballot, the election was ultimately decided by the athletes council." After narrowing its list of preferred candidates to Cordeiro, Carter and Martino, the group "spent seven hours in discussions on Saturday before choosing to vote as a bloc for Cordeiro" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/11). SOCCER AMERICA's Paul Kennedy noted the Athlete Council's vote was the "counterweight" to Carter's support from MLS and the NWSL and "swung the election." If they had voted for Carter, she would have "won easily on the first ballot." Even a split of the vote between Carter and Cordeiro would have given Carter such a "huge advantage that she would have likely won on the second ballot" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 2/11). Kennedy noted as the results of the second ballot were announced, it was "clear the two polarizing candidates -- Carter and Wynalda -- had ... hit their ceilings." Paul Caligiuri "dropped out after the first ballot," and Michael Winograd and Steve Gans "withdrew after the second ballot" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 2/11). 

A BIG ASSIST: ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle noted it was around midnight Friday when the Athlete Council, which had been "meeting off and on for seven hours, finally adjourned." The council met around 1:00pm ET Friday and "had meetings" with outgoing USSF President Sunil Gulati, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani. Hope Solo, one of the other candidates, said that she felt the council was "influenced by outside forces." Council member Brian Ching, "not surprisingly, refuted that notion." By the time the meetings were done, "only an hour was left to have an actual discussion about the candidates," so the Council "agreed to meet for dinner and resume talks later in the evening." The "tough conversations" started around 9:00pm. That included "not only deciding what candidate was strongest, but also whether to vote as a bloc." Ultimately, the decision "came down to experience and the extent to which they felt someone could make the necessary changes the federation needs" (ESPN.com, 2/10). SI.com's Grant Wahl noted everyone knew coming into Saturday that the Professional Council, which includes MLS, the NWSL, USL and NASL, was "almost unanimously in support of Carter." But the Athlete Council "was undecided." Wahl: "Why did the athletes go with Cordeiro and not, say, a former athlete?" Holden said, "Getting behind Carlos Cordeiro as a candidate, we felt (better) with his skill set to be able to change some of the governance, to be transparent, to be open to working with different groups and still have international relations and the business side." He added, "I was just impressed by Carlos’s ideas. And I loved that he was vulnerable in saying that he’s not the smartest soccer guy in the room and he wants to find the smartest soccer guys" (SI.com, 2/10). Holden: "A number of these athletes brought some phenomenal ideas and their passion really shone through, and that’s why I hope a number of them stay involved in the federation, get involved in some of these board-level (positions), potentially run for vice president" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 2/10).

SPEAKING HER MIND: YAHOO SPORTS' Henry Bushnell noted Solo on Saturday during her pre-election speech "didn't hold back." Solo said, "I was a player for nearly 20 years, and I saw first hand what Carlos Cordeiro’s idea of change is. You cannot, as a vice president, claim that you are the lone voice of change while all of this happens under your watch. And you, as delegates, cannot buy that. He was part of a federation that generated millions of dollars on the backs of its players, and much of it on the backs of its women’s players, who have been the economic engine in this federation for years, yet treated like second-class citizens." She added, "He was part of a federation that could have been the first in the history of the sport to pay its women equally. Instead, that honor goes to Norway while the U.S. women, the most successful team ever, has to force it through the court system." Solo: "For 10 years, Carlos Cordeiro was in a position to create change. And he did nothing. He failed me. He failed my teammates. And he failed the women of the NWSL." Solo then apparently "gave Cordeiro, the next speaker, a hug as she walked off stage" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/10). SOCCER AMERICA's Kennedy noted Wynalda "took on a more conciliatory tone in his five-minute speech to the membership before the vote." Wynalda said, "The fight stops now. And not until we stop fighting with each other and start fighting together are we going to be a soccer nation and are we going to be able to achieve and realize our potential" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 2/11).

TWITTER REAX: ESPN's Sebastian Salazar tweeted, "Cordeiro did excellent job convincing voters he could be 'change agent' despite #USSF background & that #USSFPresident voters aren't as interested in change as everyone on twitter." Goal.com's Ives Galarcep: "He overcame the stigma of being labeled 'status quo' and realistically he is the best equipped to handle the job, and most importantly, to learn from Sunil Gulati's mistakes. He has a BIG job ahead of him." ESPN's Ian Darke: "Doesn’t feel like a wind of change appointment - but let’s see." Soccer site Breaking The Lines: "His win signals a prolongation of the disease that has plagued this country and its federation: money over progress." MLS' Garber: "We have enjoyed a productive relationship with Carlos in his time as a U.S. Soccer board member during the last 11 years."

New U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro envisions his role as "similar to that of a chairman of a board of directors, much different from the hands-on role" played by his predecessor Sunil Gulati, but Cordeiro will "have lots on his plate to start, beginning with" the joint bid for the '26 FIFA World Cup, according to Paul Kennedy of SOCCER AMERICA. Much of Cordeiro's work as USSF VP over the last decade "has been internationally." He served as an "informal foreign minister for American soccer and holds important committee positions" at FIFA and CONCACAF. He will be "immediately pulled in that direction as the USA, Canada and Mexico work to nail down the hosting rights" to the '26 World Cup. The bid is "due on March 16," and the orderly transition from Gulati to Cordeiro will be "viewed favorably in FIFA circles." Cordeiro is on the bid committee, so "all this work is right up his wheel house, but he'll need to be careful to not exacerbate the perception of some that he's more interested in affairs outside the United States." Cordeiro also has to "address a host of other issues," including hiring men's and women's national team GMs. But one of Cordeiro's first tasks will be to "call his first meeting of the board of directors, which will be short two members." U.S. Soccer on Saturday was also "hit with two new actions in the ongoing legal battle" backed by NASL club N.Y. Cosmos Owner and NASL BOD Chair Rocco Commisso, who "supported three candidates in the election" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 2/12).

A WINNING CAMPAIGN: SI.com's Grant Wahl wrote one of Cordeiro’s "biggest challenges will be to convince those inside and outside the federation -- including fans -- that even though he was seen as Gulati’s right-hand man for a decade, he will bring about real change now that he is president in a way that Cordeiro did not fully push for (publicly, at least) as vice president." Cordeiro won on Saturday by "convincing enough voting blocs that his promises of reform were real." While other candidates throughout the campaign were "spending more time speaking to the media, Cordeiro kept a lower media profile and focused more on traveling to spend time with the voters." Even though Cordeiro was "viewed as one of two 'establishment' candidates, it’s also worth noting" that Cordeiro defeated Kathy Carter -- the "preferred candidate" of MLS owners and the two most powerful figures in U.S. Soccer -- Gulati and MLS Commissioner Don Garber (SI.com, 2/10).

ESTABLISHMENT PREVAILS? YAHOO SPORTS' Henry Bushnell wrote Cordeiro will "not be" a Gulati clone, as both his "actions and his words speak to that." But his election is "anything but the awakening that many thought" the USMNT's failure to qualify for the World Cup would provoke. It is "not the big-picture course correction that other candidates promised." It is "not a sharp left turn." Rather, it is a "continuation along a seemingly endless path, albeit with the potential for reinvigoration." It is an "extension of the establishment’s reign" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/11). YAHOO SPORTS' Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote Cordeiro is the "ultimate establishment candidate." The electorate "felt very differently about the direction the federation should go than the fans did"(SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/10).

MAKE SOCCER GREAT AGAIN: PRO SOCCER USA's Alicia DelGallo wrote the work "begins immediately for Cordeiro, who is tasked with resurrecting hope and making significant changes that will ensure the United States never again misses the World Cup." Cordeiro last week said that his "first order of business should he win would be 'a coming together' (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 2/10). In DC, Steven Goff wrote Cordeiro will "have to address not only the men’s national team but the needs of state youth and adult associations that felt ignored during Gulati’s reign; gender equity and player development issues; the affordability of youth soccer; and greater inclusion of immigrant communities" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/11).

Several other teams that were pursuing Darvish could quickly pivot to other top pitchers on the market
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Cubs' signing of P Yu Darvish is "expected to be the one industry insiders have been waiting for to break a winterlong free-agency freeze that has seen only the relief-pitcher market move at a traditional pace," according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The move also "delivered a powerful counterpunch to big moves made by the Cardinals and Brewers earlier in the offseason" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/11). In DC, Dave Sheinin wrote the signing "eases, at least for now, the sense of foreboding hanging over" MLB with camps set to open this week. Several other teams "had been in pursuit of Darvish" and those teams "could quickly pivot to the other top starters on the market." The signing "represents the longest and biggest deal signed by any players this winter." But one big signing "does not prove anything, and the industry will still be watching to see how the rest of this late-forming market unfolds." There is now "at least some hope that the Darvish signing will be the spark this market needed and that labor tensions will ease, if only slightly" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/11). THE ATHLETIC's Ken Rosenthal wrote the Darvish signing "figures to spur some activity, if only because the losers on Yu -- in theory -- will now be forced into action." Rosenthal: "I'll believe it when I see it" (THEATHLETIC.com, 2/10). 

MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE: YAHOO SPORTS' Mark Townsend wrote with Darvish off the market, free agency will "center almost exclusively" around agent Scott Boras, who reps unsigned players like RF J.D. Martinez, P Jake Arrieta, 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas, P Greg Holland and "several other big name free agents who are still on the board." For all intents and purposes, Boras "now controls the market, meaning he’s about to enter a standoff with the owners that could shape the future of MLB" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/10). In S.F., John Shea notes many Giants' players over the weekend at FanFest "expressed concern ... that the game is being hurt by a slow free-agent market and teams’ unwillingness to compete, which has created labor strife." Giants SS Brandon Crawford said, "It’s definitely troubling as a player to see that many good big-league players still unsigned. Those are guys who can make huge impacts on teams." Giants 1B Brandon Belt added fewer suitors can "take away from the competition, and competition is good for everybody." While Giants Exec VP/Baseball Operations Brian Sabean "wouldn’t compare current friction" to '94-95, he "couldn’t explain the stalled free-agent market." Sabean: "I don’t know if it’s a one-year correction. I don’t know that anybody in the game is smart enough to know what it means" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/12).

NOT A GOOD LOOK FOR ANYONE: In Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote a Spring Training camp for free agents is a "noble undertaking." But in the end, players "won't win in this stalemate." Maybe it is a "market correction." Either way, MLB and the union "went from a spirit of cooperation to attacking each other now at every turn." Having this many good players without jobs "isn’t a good look for baseball" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/11). In Cincinnati, John Fay wrote the current spat "doesn't bode well for lasting labor peace." But players "waiting for million-dollar contacts aren’t going to evoke a lot of sympathy from John Q. Fan" (CINCINNATI.com, 2/10).

MiLB is taking its Hispanic marketing campaign national in ’18 after a debut late last season in four pilot markets. The return of Es Divertido Ser Un Fan (“It’s Fun To Be A Fan”) as an organization-wide effort this season arrives with the creation of a trophy called the Copa De La Diversion (“Fun Cup”) that will be awarded to the club deemed to have the best Hispanic outreach program during the year. Similar to pilot efforts in ’17 with Triple-A teams in Las Vegas and Charlotte and Single-A teams in Kane County (Ill.) and Visalia (Calif.), this year’s campaign will involve a series of special theme nights, customized jerseys and hats and temporary nickname shifts that seek to tie into the club’s local Hispanic communities. Those alternate monikers will be announced next month. MiLB has created a three-foot trophy that will travel around to participating clubs this spring and summer. At season’s end, one club will be awarded the trophy based on a combination of fan, MiLB and individual club input. “We’re continuing to see sizable gains among Hispanics among our players, youth participation, and our paying attendance,” said MiLB VP/Marketing Strategy & Research Kurt Hunzeker. “So the time is right for us to push this campaign to a bigger level.” More than 17% of MiLB’s fan base last year was Hispanic. The ongoing development of Es Divertido Ser Un Fan stands as a key pillar in MiLB’s overarching goal to reach 50 million in annual attendance by ’26. Thirty-three clubs, covering a wide range of classifications, geographies and market sizes, are slated to participate this season in the program. MiLB also expects to have a presenting sponsor for the Copa De La Diversion in place by April, and individual teams will also be selling against the program. Game-used Copa De La Diversion caps and jerseys additionally will be auctioned off this fall, with proceeds donated to local Hispanic charities.