U.S. Soccer presidential candidate Q&A: Steve Gans

Daniel Karell
NBC Sports

PST is vetting the candidates to succeed Sunil Gulati as president of the United States Soccer Federation.

This post speaks with Steve Gans — a partner at Prince Lobel Tye LLP in Boston, Mass. with extensive experience in soccer administration and representation, including helping organize Boston’s efforts to be a host city at the 1994 World Cup — about his candidacy. His website is stevegans2018.com.

Pro Soccer Talk: Hello, Steve. It’s been a long campaign for you. How do you think it’s gone so far as we head to the big election on Saturday?

Steve Gans“It’s gone really well for us. It’s been crazy because I was the first one in, I challenged Sunil last May, I announced my intention (to run) and all through the summer and last fall it looked like it would just be me and him, and then the U.S. failure to qualify (for the 2018 World Cup) happened in October, and the fallout from that has been meteoric. Sunil (Gulati is) not running and seven other people jumped in. The last few months have been crazy, messy and chaotic but it’s been good for us. We’re in really good shape and we’re really excited heading into this weekend.”

[READ: Six USSF candidates reportedly join forces against establishment candidates]

PST: Ultimately, if elected, what are the three main objectives you’d like to achieve as U.S. Soccer president?

SG: “First of all, we have to fix the problems that are ailing the game throughout – from youth to adult to national team to pro as well. One of the big themes that I hear, I’ve been on this listening tour since May, is lack of respect and lack of voice, so I want to get voice back and show that respect, because there’s so many great people in the trenches that have great experience and information that should be included and haven’t been.

“I want to solve the fractured youth landscape, put joy back in the game, we’re creating players without joy, stop the infighting between sanctioning organizations which affects both youth and adult soccer but contributes to the 75 percent attrition rate at U-13, and we need to solve that, that’s not in the best interest for the good of the game or the kid or adult players.

And we want to make us respected throughout the world. We want to improve our youth systems and our national team programs. I do a lot of international work in the Premier League and I represent Celtic FC, and what I know is we’re respected for certain reasons, but the wrong reasons.

“We’re respected for things like fan engagement, front office practices, those sorts of things, digital media. We’re not respected as a soccer nation and we need to fix those things so that we’re respected for our youth system, our development program, our national teams. I want to make us a fully and highly respected soccer nation internationally.”

PST: How much have you learned about who makes up U.S. Soccer’s delegates and constituency?

SG: “What I think is great is this is truly a national election. I’ve never run for anything (before) and I think with a national election, the country’s divided right now politically but what I find so uplifting in this regard, people who might otherwise be divided politically, the people I’ve met are all soccer people, so we all have common ground.

“The other part is I’ve been involved in the sport for 40 years, if you go back to the time I was a teenager, and there weren’t that many competent people involved in the sport, because it was kind of an outcast sport in the 1970s and early 1980s. It’s not true anymore. I’ve met so many people throughout the game who volunteer or are in the game otherwise, and they are so highly competent and they care so much for the good of the game. I’ve learned so much about that and that creates for me a tremendous amount of optimism in this regard, that we can solve these problems, because there’s so many good minds out there that want to help.

“I’ve also learned the fed hasn’t been doing things the right way because so many people feel disrespected.”

PST: Finally, what are your expectations for the election?

SG: “We think we’re in really great shape. I don’t have the money, there are four candidates who are indep financed, but what we do have is the best campaign team. I have been fortunate to have highly experienced people volunteering for me since last May. They’re incredible. I have a Harvard statistics expert doing my modeling and we think we’re in very great shape. We start out very solidly but this will be a multi-ballot race, but the (recent ESPN) article quite rightly tests out that I’m the one who doesn’t have any negatives.

“I may not be the celebrity candidate but people don’t look at me having any negative qualities. In a multi-ballot race, that favors a candidate like that every succeeding ballot because that candidate becomes acceptable and a consensus candidate. Our candidate sees us starting strongly and picking up a big amount of steam every round. We feel really good about this. Our numbers are good and the enthusiasm of delegates is good.”

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