Saturday is a massive day for the future of American soccer and the United States Soccer Federation. That’s when the federation selects its next president at its Annual General Meeting in Orlando, bringing an end to an intriguing campaign process that has seen a great deal more attention that it’s used to.
An unprecedented eight candidates stand for election and none of them are the incumbent Sunil Gulati, who has held the position unopposed since 2006 and declined to run for office.
Many issues are at stake on Saturday. The future of the U.S. Men’s National Team and the U.S. Women’s National Team is a big one, but so is the organization of professional and amateur leagues at the adult level and the process for developing young talent throughout the nation.
Here’s a look at how Saturday’s election will work and who could possibly take the reins of the USSF for the next four years.
Paul Caligiuri- Known for scoring the winning goal against Trinidad and Tobago back in 1989 that sent the U.S. to their first World Cup in decades, Caliguiri has been around soccer for a long, long time. He has experience as a coach at the collegiate and semi-professional level and has a passion for developing young players that he hopes he can carry into a term as president.
He hopes to create youth development task forces in each state and strengthen development at both the local and national level. He also hopes he can give amateur adult clubs a stronger voice in the federation.
Kathy Carter- Carter is the president of Soccer United Marketing and her platform focuses a lot on strengthening the business side of the game while also examining the process of developing young talent. She laid out her platform to establish a commission aimed at reforming every aspect of the federation back in December.
Carter has the support of MLS, which is a large feather in her cap since they hold 14.5% of the voting power. Her opponents feel she represents maintaining the status quo established by Gulati, which is what many of these candidates wish to change.
Carlos Cordeiro- Cordeiro is Gulati’s current vice president, a post he has held since 2016, and has been with the USSF for the last ten years. He wants to reform the office of president to mirror that of a chairman of the board for a large corporation. He wants to create several independent arms of the federation including one for player development and the awarding of commercial rights contracts.
Like Carter, he is a business oriented candidate that already has a lot of experience working in the top rung of the federation. Unlike Carter, he doesn’t bring along the potential conflict of interest with SUM that has worried a certain portion of fans.
Steve Gans- Gans is a lawyer from Boston who focuses on business, sports, and employment law as well as a principal of Professional Soccer Advisers, an international soccer consulting agency. His connections with the game run deep, although they aren’t as obvious as other candidates. He briefly played for the Baltimore Blast, coached youth soccer, worked in player development, and was a member of the World Cup organizing committee back in 1994.
He has a wealth of business organization experience mixed in with a variety of soccer related positions in many aspects of the game. He has few, if any, black spots on his record and has been in the mix since declaring his candidacy early in 2017, well before the USMNT’s World Cup failure.
Kyle Martino- In addition to serving as a studio host with NBC Sports, Martino played at every notable level of American soccer. He was MLS Rookie of the Year with the Columbus Crew in 2002 and has eight caps with the USMNT. He hopes to increase transparency in the organization while also promoting diversity and advancing player development. He wants to help each and every league and association at all levels work together towards strengthening the federation as a whole.
One unique aspect of Martino’s candidacy is that he has promised to step down if the men’s and women’s national teams fail to reach certain unspecified goals.
Hope Solo- The notable USWNT goalkeeper that led the team to their third World Cup title in 2015 wants to bring the women’s game up to the same level economically with their male counterparts. She’s been an outspoken advocate of equal pay for the women’s team and all women in the federation. She calls for increased transparency while loudly pointing out its failures in recent years.
She’s unlikely to win, but she has gone a long way towards pointing out the USSF’s flaws.
Michael Winograd- Winograd is a generous blend of previous soccer experience and organizational talents. He played college soccer at Lafayette College and was a pro in Israel. He was also a coach and founder of a short-lived professional franchise, serves on the board of his local soccer organization and has a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
He isn’t as radical as some of the candidates, but he does want to reform the structure of youth development on a state-by-state basis. He also has a plan for implementing promotion and relegation in American soccer that would also allow current MLS teams to remain in the top flight in perpetuity.
Eric Wynalda- Wynalda is a veteran of three World Cups and has 106 caps with the USMNT. He was the first American to play in the German Bundesliga and he scored the very first goal in MLS. He has been very outspoken on his desire for promotion and relegation in the American system and is also a proponent of switching MLS to the European calendar. He wants to make soccer more affordable to play and coach at youth levels, examine and vet the relationship between U.S. Soccer and SUM, and alter how the federation doles out media rights.
Wynalda represents the most radical wing of this election. He has the support of many youth organizations and independent clubs, who may not carry much weight on their own, but combined present a sizeable force in this election.
The next president of U.S. Soccer will be selected by members of the National Council. Voters will come from current athletes, members of the board of directors, representatives from each of the 91 State Associations, long serving “Life Members” of the federation, and other delegates from various affiliates and associations. All votes are secret.
The specific weighting of votes is still to be determined, but it’s expected to look similar to the way it went in previous elections. Last time around, the athletes council held 20% of the vote (the minimum established by USSF bylaws), he youth, adult, and professional councils each receive 25.8%, and the remaining 2.6% are divided between the other delegates.
A candidate needs a majority of the votes in order to win, and if nobody has a majority after all ballots are cast, another vote takes place. No candidates are automatically eliminated and must drop off the ballot on their own accord. This process repeats itself until someone achieves a majority.
Be sure to stick with SBI throughout Saturday as the election unfolds.