U.S. Soccer Has Elected a New President - Now What?
21 Feb, 2018By: Michael Popke
Carlos Cordeiro — a former Goldman Sachs executive — is the new president of U.S. Soccer. What does that mean for the sport in this country?
Cordeiro was elected Feb. 10 as the organization’s 32nd president on the third ballot during the National Council Meeting at the Annual General Meeting in Orlando. He will begin a four-year term effective immediately, succeeding Sunil Gulati, who announced he would not seek re-election after a 12-year run. Cordeiro has a decade-long history with U.S. Soccer and served under Gulati as U.S. Soccer’s vice president since 2016.
This was U.S. Soccer’s first contested presidential election since 1998, and Cordeiro triumphed over an eight-candidate field that included Paul Caligiuri, Kathy Carter, Steve Gans, Kyle Martino, Hope Solo, Michael Winograd and Eric Wynalda.
As a business-oriented, establishment candidate, Cordeiro, 61, campaigned on a platform that called for making U.S. Soccer globally competitive, securing the 2027 Women’s World Cup in the United States and increasing the organization’s financial strength.
His victory “deals a blow to those who called for changes in the sport's national governing body,” ESPN.com noted. “Under U.S. law, 20 percent of the vote is from the Athletes Council while the professional, adult and youth councils each has 25.8 percent.”
“After all the fuss and fury about a need for change, U.S. Soccer Federation delegates … elected the most status of the status quo candidates,” Forbes.com proclaimed.
“Cordeiro will have to address not only the men’s national team [which last year failed to make the World Cup field for the first time since 1986] but the needs of state youth and adult associations that felt ignored during Gulati’s reign; gender equity and player development issues; the affordability of youth soccer; and greater inclusion of immigrant communities,” The Washington Post added.
Solo and Winograd were considered the candidates most favorable to youth soocer, although some observers believe Cordeiro will make the sport better for kids, especially minority players.
“Carlos will be a completely different leader,” Donna Shalala, a U.S. Soccer board member and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, told the Miami Herald before the election. “He will do less micromanaging. He will let experts make decisions. He will strengthen the organization and he is very committed to minority kids and expanding our talent pool. He was a very successful investment banker, so he knows the business side. He’s also warm, very thoughtful, has great interpersonal skills, builds consensus and is extremely well-liked by international soccer leaders.”
“There was a sense perhaps that I was an insider,” Cordeiro told The Washington Post after the vote. “I’ve tried to make the case that in order to hit the ground running, you need a certain amount of experience and a degree of familiarity with the functioning of the federation. It’s a very complex organization.”
“My campaign was all about being more collaborative, inclusive, working on teams,” Cordeiro additionally told SI.com, indicating how he will lead U.S. Soccer. “You will see a very different leadership [from Gulati’s] going forward.”
Goal.comurged soccer fans to give the man a chance while at the same time placing pressure on the new president to make a fast impact: “Now Cordeiro must convince the unhappy masses who don't see him as being all that different to Gulati that he won't be a carbon copy of the man he credits with helping introduce him to the game of soccer a decade ago. … American soccer can't afford Cordeiro to be a status quo president. It can't afford the next four years to be a carbon copy of the last four years. On Saturday, voters chose Cordeiro because they believed he is serious about change and capable of bringing it about. He has four years to prove them right.”
Cordeiro becomes president after serving in various roles with U.S. Soccer since being appointed as its first independent director in 2007. As vice president since 2016, he worked to reform governance of U.S. Soccer’s board with a focus on greater transparency and accountability. He has also previously served as treasurer, chair of the Budget Committee and director of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. He also represents U.S. Soccer on the CONCACAF Council and FIFA’s Stakeholders Committee.