U.S. Soccer election process branded unfair by candidate Steve Gans in letter

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The U.S. Soccer Federation crest. (Getty)
The U.S. Soccer Federation crest. (Getty)

Less than 24 hours before the deadline to submit nominations for the U.S. Soccer Federation’s 2018 presidential election, one of the nine candidates, Steve Gans, has formally called for independent oversight of the process, which Gans believes has not been conducted in a “fair, open manner.”

Gans and his campaign team sent a letter, which was obtained by Sports Illustrated, to U.S. Soccer on Tuesday. Gans was the first to declare his candidacy, and since then, the letter states, U.S. Soccer has “displayed neither fairness nor transparency.”

Gans pinpointed three rule changes over the past year as examples. One, adopted on Sept. 1, required three official letters of support from a nominating organization for a candidate to join the race. All candidates must submit those letters of support by 11:59 p.m. CT on Tuesday.

Gans told Yahoo Sports last week that he has the three required nominations. But, with the official list of candidates for February’s election set to be confirmed on Wednesday or Thursday, barring delays, Gans called “upon the Federation to bring in independent, professional management to oversee the final two months of the election process.”

A U.S. Soccer spokesman said that the actual election, held Feb. 10 at the federation’s annual general meeting in Orlando, will be overseen by an independent firm, but clarified that this oversight was always in the federation’s plans; it is not a response to Gans’ letter. Gans has called for independent oversight of the entire process – which includes a review of all applications by U.S. Soccer’s Nominating and Governance committee after Tuesday’s deadline.

U.S. Soccer chief counsel Lydia Wahlke responded to the letter from Gans’ team, refuting many of the points and accusations. She called the allegations “vague and unsupported,” and pointed out that the election regulations are not set by U.S. Soccer staff, but by the Nominating and Governance committee. That committee comprises five elected U.S. Soccer board members, including MLS commissioner Don Garber and outgoing USSF president Sunil Gulati, though Gulati said he had recused himself from all matters relating to the election.

The full letters – both the one sent by Gans’ team and the one sent by U.S. Soccer – can be found in the Sports Illustrated story.

Gans has long been critical of the federation’s handling of the election. Speaking to Yahoo Sports back in September, he specifically accused Gulati, the incumbent who last week announced he would not run for re-election, of putting up “roadblocks.” At that point, Gans had not received a list of delegates who would vote in February’s election. U.S. Soccer, at the time, said it planned to have the list of delegates available on or around Oct. 1.

Gans was indeed provided with the list in October, once he submitted his “list agreement.” But, in his letter, Gans said the list was incomplete. U.S. Soccer’s response stated that the list, based on rolling AGM registrations, is naturally incomplete until the actual election. According to U.S. Soccer, Gans has received updated lists since the initial release.

Gans, a Boston-based attorney, definitively announced his candidacy in September. The field has since swelled to include former U.S. national team players Paul Caligiuri, Kyle Martino, Hope Solo and Eric Wynalda; Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter; current U.S. Soccer vice president Carlos Cordeiro; soccer entrepreneur Paul Lapointe; and New York-based lawyer Michael Winograd.

That nine-person list could be cut down by Tuesday night’s deadline if candidates do not have the three required nominations.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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