The United States Soccer Federation has a new president. Whether it will get the change many of its members desire remains to be seen.
Over 500 delegates gathered in Orlando on Saturday to elect Carlos Cordeiro, now the former USSF vice president, as Sunil Gulati’s successor. Cordeiro defeated Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter, former U.S. national team players Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda, and four other candidates on the third ballot.
Cordeiro and Carter, the two insiders, carried 70.9 percent of the vote on the first ballot, but neither came close to a majority:
Paul Caligiuri dropped out after the first round. In the second round, Cordeiro inched closer to 50 percent, taking a significant number of votes from the anti-establishment group. Michael Winograd and Steve Gans dropped out after round two.
Cordeiro won with 68.6 percent on the third ballot. A significant chunk of Carter voters – perhaps the MLS delegates – flipped to U.S. Soccer’s VP:
Support from the Athletes’ Council reportedly propelled Cordeiro to victory. The group of 20 current and former national teamers, which controlled 20 percent of the vote, decided in the final 12 hours of the campaign to vote as a bloc for Cordeiro. Cordeiro also received endorsements from U.S. Youth Soccer and support from several members of the establishment.
He was not “the establishment candidate,” in that he did not have the support of Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber. Carter had that. Cordeiro, despite his close working relationship with Gulati, declared his candidacy without the outgoing president’s blessing. Cordeiro entered the race a month before Gulati announced he would not run for re-election.
But if there were two establishment candidates, as many felt there were, Cordeiro was one of them. He had attempted to distance himself from the status quo, and positioned himself as a compromise between the establishment and the six “change” candidates. That’s likely how he ultimately won. But his opponents will retain skepticism that a man who has been part of the USSF power structure for over a decade can suddenly pivot the organization in a new direction.
Cordeiro, a former Goldman Sachs executive, joined the federation’s board as an independent director in 2007. He was then elected vice president in 2016. (USSF presidential and vice presidential elections are separate, and are staggered.)
Two years later, he decided to run for the top office. He will take that office exactly four months after the biggest failure in American soccer history, a 2-1 loss in Trinidad and Tobago that eliminated the U.S. men’s national team from 2018 World Cup qualifying. Thousands of fans and stakeholders hoped failure would incite change. They clamored for it over four tumultuous, unprecedented months. Six candidates vociferously argued for it.
Among the six, Wynalda and Martino gained the most traction. But none of the six – four former national teamers, two lawyers with soccer backgrounds – had extensive experience as high-ranking soccer administrators.
Cordeiro had that. He becomes president immediately at the end of Saturday’s national council meeting, with a mandate from many stakeholders – though certainly not all – for change. Now it’s on him to deliver.
Cordeiro spoke to Yahoo Sports in December, and outlined some of his ideas. He is determined to grow the budget from $110 million to over $200 million, and eventually to $500 million. “If you can successfully grow the federation, and bring in additional revenues, you’re then able to invest more in the membership,” he said. “And it becomes a virtuous circle.”
Cordeiro also wants to form two new board-level committees, a technical committee and a commercial committee. The former “would provide oversight to the new technical department – which we don’t currently have at U.S. Soccer,” Cordeiro told Yahoo Sports. The new technical department will be lead by two general managers of soccer, one on the women’s side, the other on the men’s side.
The commercial committee would oversee the negotiations of the federation’s business deals. “There has been no [board] oversight of any of our commercial activities,” Cordeiro told Yahoo Sports. “Our longer-term contracts with sponsors, broadcasters, the marketing entity, that basically has not been brought to the board for a full-fledged, vetted discussion.
“I would change that. That needs much more transparency, that needs much more scrutiny, if only because of the inherent conflicts of interest. We have an exclusive marketing arrangement with [Soccer United Marketing]. SUM basically represents U.S. Soccer in its negotiations with all but one sponsor, Nike. Given the dollars involved, and the significant sums at stake, that whole exercise needs oversight at the board level.”
His ideas, for the most part, are impressive. The question now is whether they were merely politically-motivated promises or plans that Cordeiro intends to follow through on.
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