U.S. Soccer hires former NFL, MLS executive Will Wilson as its new CEO

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 12: A detailed view of the United States logo crest is seen in game action during an International friendly match between the United States and South Africa on May 12, 2019 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Will Wilson is U.S. Soccer's new CEO. (Robin Alam/Getty)

The United States Soccer Federation finally has a new chief executive. The sport’s embattled domestic governing body announced Monday that it had hired sports business veteran Will Wilson as its CEO and secretary general on Monday. Wilson replaces Dan Flynn, who stepped down in September after almost 20 years with the federation.

A native of London, Wilson arrives at Soccer House in Chicago at a pivotal moment for the USSF. The organization has lacked clear leadership ever since the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia sent it into turmoil. Former president Sunil Gulati declined to run for a fourth team following the qualifying debacle. Former commercial boss Jay Berhalter left his post shortly after Flynn’s departure.

Just this month, then-U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro resigned halfway through his first four-year term amid pressure from corporate sponsors after the federation’s lawyers used a misogynistic argument to defend its position in an equal-pay lawsuit filed in federal court by members of its World Cup champion women’s national team.

Wilson will be tasked with quickly filling the leadership void and stabilizing the ship. Based on his resume at least, the dual-citizen appears to have the experience to hit the ground running.

The 52-year-old most recently worked for sports agency Wasserman, where he spent the last eight years as co-head of (American) football, representing more than 100 NFL players and coaches. He previously worked with the NFL Player’s Association as a contract advisor — labor experience that could help resolve the very public pay dispute with the USWNT before it goes to trial. Wilson, who speaks Spanish fluently, also was the managing director of NFL Mexico, overseeing the league’s business throughout Latin America.

Wilson has an extensive background in soccer, too, having spent four years within MLS and its commercial arm, Soccer United Marketing. At SUM, he was charged with managing relationships with international brands like Barcelona, Manchester United and the Mexican Football Federation and overseeing events such as the MLS All-Star game and MLS Cup.

“I have always admired the federation from afar and have long felt that the U.S. Soccer crest is one of the best brands in the business,” Wilson said in a news release. “There is nothing like harnessing our nation’s support behind our women’s and men’s national teams, and I see significant upside in our ability to work with our membership to grow participation levels, increase our commercial business and drive our ability to compete on the field at the highest level.”

“We are thrilled Will is joining U.S. Soccer as our CEO,” added U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow, who replaced Cordeiro March 12. “He brings an unrivaled set of experience and expertise to soccer in America.”