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Carlos Cordeiro begins U.S. Soccer presidency that will be defined by several big challenges

The weeks and months of critiquing and campaigning are over and Carlos Cordeiro is the president of U.S. Soccer. The longtime executive and former federation vice president is now in charge, succeeding Sunil Gulati in the midst of one of the most turbulent times in American soccer history.

The race and election are over. Now what?

Cordeiro faces a monumental task ahead, and it’s one that he’ll almost certainly approach much differently than the man he is succeeds. Throughout his campaign, Cordeiro made it clear what he knows and what he doesn’t. He is a businessman and not necessarily a soccer guy when it comes to on-the-field knowledge, and Cordeiro’s reign will not be authoritarian by any means. Instead, it will be defined by those he puts around him.

Still, Cordeiro will be charged with addressing a number of issues both micro and macro and he looks to rebuild, reconstruct and, ultimately, improve U.S. Soccer.

The first steps will come with handling the senior national teams. Cordeiro is expected to appoint some sort of general manager for both the men’s and women’s national teams, relinquishing much of the decision-making power held by Gulati, who had his hands all over key decisions. Cordeiro will almost certainly call in a number of executives, athletes and insiders to help form and decide upon national team leadership. It remains to be seen how the process works and when it will be completed, but Cordeiro and co. will almost certainly have a general manager-type in place before the USMNT coaching search begins following this summer’s World Cup.

That’s the short-term, though, even if it is a decision with infinite long-term impact. The big challenge will be laying building blocks for the nation’s youth programs, and that comes in a number of steps.

Cordeiro has little to no experience on that side of the game, which is fine. He understands that, and he knows that he won’t be able to fix an entire nation’s youth system in one swoop or even one term as president. The issues run deep, but the foundation needs to be laid.

Over the next few years, the youth programs will need to improve and evolve, much as they have throughout the past several. In truth, youth soccer in the U.S. has been steadily improving, but there’s a long way to go. Coaching is still not up to par and the pay-for-play system still limits many players scattered throughout the country. Getting underserved demographics involved is certainly a main target for the Cordeiro presidency, especially in the wake of the Jonathan Gonzalez situation and all of the faults it exposed.

There’s plenty more on the agenda over the next few years. There’s the continued financial push from U.S. Soccer, an area Cordeiro will almost certainly feel comfortable in. There’s the ongoing legal battles and evolving divisional landscape. There’s also the looming decision on a World Cup bid that would almost certainly change the course of American soccer in a number of ways.

Over the next few years, Cordeiro will need to prove himself. He’ll need to show he learned from Gulati’s mistakes and he’ll need to show that he can be an agent of change while also maintaining the positive aspects of the previous regime.

Cordeiro won the presidency because he found middle ground better than anyone else in the race. He walked a fine line of both change and maintenance, and it was that line that won him the job. Now, he’ll need to show he has an idea and a vision for an ever-evolving American soccer system that is full of question marks as he enters office.


  1. So we know he was a banker for Goldman in NY and is of Indian heritage(possibly Goa with the Portuguese last name) as is Sunil Gulati. Sunil asked him to do some consulting work for USSF 10 years ago, later he becomes Treasurer of USSF and then Vice President. I think its probable given similar backgrounds in finance and heritage that him and Sunil probably ran in each others social circle and probably are or were buds at some point.

    However, he then decides to run for USSF president and announces his candidacy before Sunil officially declares if he will run again or not, at the time it certainly looked like Sunil was going to run again. Then Sunil and Garber recruit and back the candidacy of Kathy Carter president of SUM. Was this Cordeiro’s betrayal or his long time friend and colleague? Why would you oppose the man who brought you inside and promoted you twice within the organization?

    On the first ballot he had roughly 33% of the vote and Kathy had about 36% IIRC. Since the Athlete’s Council voted as a block to back Cordeiro with its 20% that means he drew about 13% from the other Councils. Kathy’s probably drew about 12% from the other Councils after factor out the 24% held by MLS/NWSL/USL. Wynalda 13% and Martino 10% on the first ballot pulled similar percentages from the other councils and the Athlete’s Council and MLS/NWSL/USL were the big blocks. On the third ballot Kathy’s dropped from 34% to 10% almost the exact percentage of vote held by MLS/NWSL/USL so it seems that MLS swung it vote to Cordeiro on the third ballot.

    I would venture to guess that the Athlete’s Council made a deal with Cordeiro and he agreed to back some of their ideas but we have really heard any specifics and its just guessing right now on why the Athletes decided on Cordeiro. Its possible they saw him as the only viable alternative to Kathy and the vote for Cordeiro was then an anti Kathy and MLS/SUM vote by the Athletes.

    I wasn’t aware he and Sunil had close ties until Cordeiro’s acceptance speech were he says Sunil “brought him in 10 years ago”. I’m really intrigued at the reasoning for him announcing to run and possible oppose his long time colleague before Sunil announced if he was running or not.

    Ya’ll know me, here comes the crazy conspiracy theory. What if Sunil set all this up to screw MLS/SUM? What if Sunil was tired of USSF answering to MLS/SUM and he maneuvered his buddy Cordeiro to run and then win, maybe it wasn’t betrayal at all and just another promotion but had to be done cloak and dagger so SUM doesn’t retain power while at the same time placing someone at the top of USSF who wouldn’t rock the boat too much. Sunil is still an Ex-Co member and out ranks all of Garber and co within FIFA. I’m not sure I really believe this or not just throwing it out there for discussion so don’t flame me just for having an idea.

    There are probably a million other reasons for Cordeiro to run against his friend but something doesn’t make sense to me about opposing your colleague/boss/friend without discussing it or having a falling out. Maybe he was set up this way as a distraction and Kathy was just the obvious decoy as president of SUM for all the fans to focus their hate on, me included of course?

    We won’t really know until 2021 or so since the MLS/USSF marketing rights are owned by SUM thru 2022 and renewal or open bidding wouldn’t begin until at least 2021. Cordeiro might not even be president by then. No open bidding has ever taken place since MLS first bought USSF’s marketing rights in 2002. Moving to an open bidding process would be the real tell in my opinion of whether or not SUM is still in control.

    End of the day, I’m happy Kathy didn’t win, we know who owns her. Cordeiro is more of a mystery is he one of them or did he just betray the old boys network? Its really hard to tell. Time will tell.

  2. Why wait till after the world Cup to hire a new manager unless there is one or a few that they really want that are employed right now. I’m sure there are some good ones out there now and would want to coach the US. I would think even before he was elected he had a pretty good idea of who he wants in the position or positions to make these types of decisions. So I hope things move rather quickly and hope one is hired before the March window.

  3. honest question that i hope someone can answer: exactly what “faults” did the jonathan gonzalez situation expose? after all was said and done, i got the impression that he simply would rather represent mexico than the usa (i’m sure us failing to qualify for the world cup had nothing to do with that).

    • I think it exposed a couple things around the theme that his talent was not really appreciated to the extent it should have been.

      1) he was brought into camps, but he often was not given playing time or selected. He wasn’t chosen for the US U20 world cup squad despite the fact that he was on the verge of breaking out into Moneterrey 1st team and showing to be top Liga MX player. Also consider that there seems to be a lack of central midfielders in US who combine both quickness and athleticism and an ability to read the game very well and have technical qualities- these are all things I believe he posses. I am sure he showed some of these characteristics at an early age while he was in the US system. Did players overlook him somewhat because he was considered “too small” or they didn’t think as highly of his latino playing style?
      2) He did not get the heavy recruitment after the US didn’t make it to the world cup. While there a differing accounts, it appears that representatives of the system did not contact him and make him feel like he was valued for the teams future.
      3) It also exposed that a player like Jona just fits the Mexican system better. This has to do with the style of play that the US seems to favor. Perhaps this isn’t an indictment of the US system, but it reflects a direction the US has gone in terms of playing style that many now question.

      • thanks for the response. i think it’s just that there are valid counterarguments to each of those points.

        he really didn’t break into the game until very recently, he’s played one season (albeit excellently) in only one specific system, and it’s not like the mexican league has this great track record of showing who’s good enough for the international stage (meaning he wouldn’t get the pulisic fast-track treatment).

        as you said, there are differing accounts as to how much he was recruited by the ussf.

        i’m not sure i buy that “he fits the mexican system better”. there aren’t many systems that don’t value a technically skilled box-to-box mid.

        you may very well be right—i guess i just think (as i implied in my original comment) that it wasn’t a coincidence that he didn’t decide until after we hadn’t qualified for the world cup. of course he would say that he just “feels more mexican” or hadn’t been pursued enough by the ussf, but the timing was pretty telling.

      • Awesome reply, Danny! As a casual-yet-interested follower of the MNT, the Gonzalez saga exposed the following:

        1. A seemingly poor communication process with potential MNT prospects. I don’t care if the situation fell in between a coaching change. JG wasn’t some fringe player in 2nd division football somewhere. He was making significant waves in Liga MX. US Soccer needs to improve their care of, and follow through with YNT players. For dual nationals, it can be a recruiting process. In fact, how about U19 Red Bull John Murphy with the Irish NT?
        Can’t get everyone. But I do hope there’s an overlapping improvement in talent identification and communication with youth players.

        2. Apparently, US Soccer doesn’t care terribly much about/see much value in the Latino youth football demographic. When a range of players, coaches, and pundits share a fairly similar message that Latino players are overlooked/undervalued in the US Soccer pyramid, it raises a red flag to look into and assess. It’s not just a matter of sending x more scouts to y community. It’s about developing trusting and enduring relationships within communities.

        3. Perhaps US Soccer could learn from and integrate positive aspects of the NCAA recruiting process when tracking players. Again, not easy. But could beneficial in the long run.

        At any rate, that’s how I viewed the JG saga. I think we share similar ideas.

      • US Soccer does not have a playing style, especially for youth players. Players are almost exclusively selected based on athleticism from the youngest ages, weeding out those who show a better skill and tactical awareness with the failed belief that anyone can learn as they go. This wins games at the younger ages and therefore attracts more players to the club, but it does not develop the highest level of talent.
        Going from no soccer culture to where the US is at now was relatively easy. Breaking into being a top nation in the sport will be extremely difficult and the failed idea that the current system is doing well won’t work. US Soccer’s best player, Pulisic, was overlooked by its own system. We are very fortunate that Dortmund recognized the talent when they did and took it to the next level. How many other potentially great players are sitting in that same situation across the country?

    • Let’s be honest y’all. The #1 reason we lost him was we didn’t qualify for the World Cup. This opened a crack for Mexico to break in and turn the head of an impressionable 18 year old. Over analyze this all you want but I have a hard time believing that he changes allegiance if we had qualified.


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