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.