Deadline this week for U.S. Soccer candidates
U.S. Soccer will not play in the World Cup for the first time in over 30 years and is now on track to have its first contested presidential election since 1998.
Last week, Sunil Gulati announced he will not seek re-election in the next vote, set to take place Feb. 10 in Orlando. Gulati, who became president in 2006, has run unopposed in previous elections.
Eight candidates have declared their interest in running (see chart), including Soccer United Marketing President Kathy Carter, U.S. Soccer Vice President Carlos Cordeiro and former U.S. national team players turned television analysts Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda.
However, that number may reduce to half this week, as Tuesday marks the deadline for candidates to submit three declarations of support from U.S. Soccer member organizations to allow them to be on the ballot, a bylaw change that U.S. Soccer enacted in September. Previously, only one member organization had to declare support for a candidate.
Many of the candidates are promising increased transparency from the federation if elected. However, the current election process, as evident by that bylaw, is anything but.
Cordeiro, who sits on the federation’s board of directors, said the bylaw change resulted from the addition of a nominating and governance committee, and was intended to put more structure into the process, not withhold any potential candidate. However, Cordeiro said that no policy requires disclosure by candidates of how they are financing their campaign, or to disclose other potential conflicts. Member associations don’t have to publicly disclose which candidate they have supported, either.
U.S. Soccer doesn’t have a scheduled debate for the candidates, which has forced many of them to try to connect directly with the more than 550 delegates who will vote on Feb. 10, with the vast majority of that group being local state youth and adult soccer associations.
Kevin Payne, CEO of U.S. Club Soccer, which represents organizations across the U.S. and represents a voting bloc of about 4 percent in the election, said the organization held its own debate last month, inviting seven candidates at the time — Carter had not yet declared her candidacy. The candidates were asked to outline their platforms on youth soccer and player development.
Wynalda, who took part in the debate, said that while he would embrace the idea of an open forum debate, he said he got the best traction by meeting with member associations in their local communities and talking to them directly.
U.S. Soccer may host a debate alongside its annual meeting prior to the election, but as of now, one is not scheduled. The annual meeting is set for Feb. 8-11. Martino said he is in discussions with the United Soccer Coaches Convention, which is scheduled for January and is the largest gathering of U.S. soccer coaches and administrators in the country, about holding a public debate as part of its event, something he thinks is necessary.
“This is the biggest decision we’ve ever had as a soccer country,” Martino said. “How on earth is it being handled in such a muddled, opaque, byzantine way?”