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That’s A Dive pod: USMNT tops Paraguay, VAR and 2026 United bid

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Kyle Martino takes a deep dive on the USMNT’s win against Paraguay which featured some exciting up-and-coming talent (6:44), analyzes England’s draw against Italy – VAR strikes again! (26:40). And finally, Kyle responds to the #United2026 naysayers, who are against North America’s 2026 World Cup bid (39:49).

[ MORE: Download “That’s A Dive” Apple Podcast ]

Click play to listen to the pod below as Martino and Howard discuss the crucial World Cup qualifiers, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, playing for Bruce Arena and more.

U.S. Soccer presidential candidate Q&A: Kyle Martino

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PST is vetting the candidates to succeed Sunil Gulati as president of the United States Soccer Federation. This post speaks with Kyle Martino — the broadcaster and former MLS midfielder — about his candidacy. His website is Everyonesgameusa.com.

As U.S. Soccer enters arguably its most critical juncture in recent history, Kyle Martino aims to become the voice of the American soccer community, while implementing several new measures to enhance the game nationwide.

For years, promotion and relegation has divided those within the U.S. soccer landscape, from MLS executives all the way down to supporters of the league and other leagues. However, Martino is not only candid about the conversation — but also insistent on the fact that others begin to have rational discussions about it as well.

[ MORE: PST’s Q&A with USSF presidential candidate Eric Wynalda ]

The 36-year-old — who has seen first-hand the benefits of pro/rel in countries like England — believes the topic of conversation is one that needs to be had and will only enhance the growth of soccer in the United States.

His Progress Plan, which was released to provide more detail regarding his platform ahead of this month’s election, dives further into the topic of pro/rel. That includes a plan to implement the system into the U.S. Soccer landscape on a trial basis as early as 2024, which Martino notes would likely begin with USL and NASL.

“For me it’s pretty surprising that such a compelling, competitive argument cannot be discussed unemotionally,” Martino told Pro Soccer Talk. “The game has grown in soccer cultures around the world and I think it’s important to do two things: first, why it isn’t possible to do it here and understand with our unique landscape, one that has seen a professional league collapse in our lifetime, how we can make soccer the best it can be. It’s important to see why these decisions in the past have affected things and how our current structure has seen a growth in our first division.

“I think we need to have the discussion about ‘is there a better way?’ And to me, I think there is a better way, where there’s a merit-based soccer landscape that accomplishes two things. You are going to be able to reach different markets that normally would go untapped with expansion in the first division. Overnight we’re not going to spend per team what the Premier League spends or La Liga spends or Bundesliga spends.

“The way you get people excited. The way you grow the soccer culture here is through affinity. Affinity happens locally. When I grow up, there was no professional league for many years, and then I celebrated teams like the Bridgeport Italians and the Brooklyn Italians, which were amateur teams in my neighborhood.  I know millions of fans are supporting their local teams as well, and want to believe that there is a possible move upward in mobility for their club.

“I think it’s integral that the people that have helped grow Major League Soccer throughout its expansion are willing to come to the table and have mature conversations about the merit of promotion/relegation.”

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In a time where the North American Soccer League (NASL) is still involved in a fierce legal struggle against the U.S. Soccer Federation, the potential implementation of pro/rel seems like an eternity away given the uncertainty of NASL.

With U.S. Soccer having denied Division 2 sanctioning in 2017 — which sparked the NASL’s legal measures — the league’s status is far from assured moving forward. Teams like Indy Eleven and more recently, Miami FC and the Jacksonville Armada, have sought refuge in other leagues to preserve their ability to continue playing.

Martino remains confident though that NASL will be able to coexist with its adversaries in the future. It’s simply a matter of having the right people in place to continue a very complex, and at times, heated conversation.

“The most important thing is finding out whether everyone is capable of getting back to the table to have these discussions,” Martino said. “Then you need to have a plan. I’m the only one with a vision moving forward in terms of a substantive resolution and how I’m going to lead.

“Pro/rel is a part of that plan. It’s a part of my plan. I know that this topic is one that a lot of people want to see happen sooner than I have planned, but what I have to say to that is ‘please come up with a better strategy.’ That has been what’s so frustrating about this topic though, is that it’s such an important one.

“I hear a lot of people screaming, and I feel like if they’re willing to put down their pitchforks and instead pick up a pen that we could be having a much more substantial conversation. We need many good ideas, which should range from doing it tomorrow to doing it across the U.S. Soccer landscape by 2030.”

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That 2030 estimated timeline proposed by Martino may seem like an eternity away, but by that point, the United States could potentially have hosted its second World Cup in the nation’s history. At least, that’s the plan.

The U.S., in conjunction with Mexico and Canada, have been preparing its United bid to bring the World Cup back to North America in 2026 on the heels of the U.S. Men’s National Team missing out on the biggest global soccer competition for the first time in over 30 years.

To this point, only Morocco is poised to challenge the United bid for the right to host in eight years’ time.

While political turmoil has raised questions about the U.S.’ ability to host the competition, Martino is not only confident about the bid the bring the World Cup back to the U.S., but also believes the joint-bid exemplifies what has made this nation so great for so long.

“I think that our bid is representative about what makes our country so great,” Martino told PST. “When leadership makes comments that disappoints us you know that it’s not what our country represents. This country is about opportunity and how beautifully multi-cultural it is.

“Sharing the opportunity to host the greatest sports tournament in the world with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico — that United bid — is a message that rises above comments that could be made in Congress.

“Obviously we are uniquely-positioned because the tournament looks like it will be expanded and bigger by the time 2026 comes around, but we could host the World Cup tomorrow if we wanted to. The infrastructure that we have in this country is amazing, and Mexico and Canada share a lot of those capabilities.

“We still, to this date, have the highest-attended World Cup back in 1994. A World Cup is obviously an economic boost and puts a spotlight on a nation — or in this case three nations — for a summer, but it has a ripple effect across the global sports landscape. A tournament in the U.S. in 2026 would create a windfall of revenue that could be reinvested in the game all over the world, which is really what this sport is all about.”

Martino’s confidence in his platform and ability to evoke change has driven him to a point where he believes he can fully challenge for the seat of U.S. Soccer president.

From discussions with youth clubs nationwide to some of Major League Soccer’s biggest stars (which include endorsements from players like Dax McCarty and Sacha Kljestan), the former player believes it’s very possible that he will be the one to steer American soccer down the right path.

Report: Martino, Wynalda could “forge an alliance” in USSF presidential race

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According to a report by Steven Goff of the Washington Post, a pair of former USMNT players could join forces to ensure one of them is elected president of US Soccer in the upcoming election.

Goff reports that former NBC Soccer analyst Kyle Martino and former Fox analyst Eric Wynalda could team up in some form or fashion to increase the chance that either is victorious in the February election.

Both candidates have spoken highly of each other in recent interviews, and while neither offered any details, they both admitted the idea had been thrown around.

“I have a high opinion of Kyle and it would be something I would definitely encourage if it meant one or the other was going to win the election,” Wynalda said. “I would certainly consider it. If he and I need to partner up, I would be in favor of that simply because we are both agents of change.”

Martino shared the same sentiments. “I have a lot of respect for the way Eric has brought both the need for change and the need for deep soccer knowledge to the forefront of this campaign,” he said. “I have met with Eric and will continue to meet with any and all candidates who share these common beliefs.” Martino made sure to add, “But to be clear, I haven’t agreed to anything.”

It’s unclear what kind of alliance could be formed, but any scenario would likely involve one or the other dropping out of the race late in the game and supporting the remaining candidate. It’s possible that any candidate who drops out to support the other could be promised a coaching role within the organization should their supported counterpart win the election.

A debate will be held next Saturday, Jan 20th, while the election will be held on February 10th.

U.S. Soccer confirms eight presidential candidates

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The eight approved candidates for the post of U.S. Soccer president have been announced by the confederation ahead of the Feb. 10 election.

Paul Caligiuri, Kathy Carter, Carlos Cordeiro, Steve Gans, Kyle Martino, Hope Solo, Michael Winograd, and Eric Wynalda are the people in question.

[ MORE: Swans fire Paul Clement ]

All but Caligiuri have bios posted on the U.S. Soccer web site here.

There’s plenty of controversy inside of the nominees, even respected ones. Kathy Carter works for powerful but oft-criticized Soccer United Marketing, Carlos Cordeiro was embattled leader Sunil Gulati’s vice president, and USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo has had multiple scrapes with the law including her husband’s DUI driving an unpermitted use of a U.S. Soccer vehicle.

In actuality, these are eight X-factors. Carter and Cordeiro may draw scorn for connections with the incumbent — and thus, the embarrassing World Cup qualifiying failure — but are very much their own people.

Martino and Wynalda are former USMNT players with wide-ranging takes on the game today, while Caligiuri fits that bill as well. Laywers Gans and Winograd would bring differing takes on the game as relative outsiders.

Key debate arrives in USSF presidential election campaign

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For those of you concerned about the future of U.S. Soccer (so, all of us) a key debate between candidates running for U.S. Soccer Federation President will take place later today in Chicago.

US Club Soccer will hold the event from 12:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday with presidential candidates Paul Caliguiri, Steve Gans, Kyle Martino, Michael Winograd and Eric Wynalda taking part in the forum about the future of U.S. Soccer as they aim to win the US Club Soccer recommendation and votes ahead of the USSF presidential election in Orlando, Fla. on Feb. 10, 2018.

Below is the statement from US Club Soccer on the event, which will be moderated by their CEO/Executive Director Kevin Payne plus Chairman Phil Wright and the US Club Soccer Board of Directors.

A variety of questions will be asked about player development, national team development and coaching issues, to name a few. Full audio recording will be available for download after its conclusion here.

“With millions of athletes playing soccer in the U.S., the Federation’s President has a critical role to play in shaping the future of the game with a defined roadmap for growth and success at the grassroots level through the professional ranks,” Payne said. “Each candidate brings unique qualifications to drive U.S. Soccer, and we look forward to exploring how our country can position itself as a global leader of the game, especially with the possibility as serving as one of the hosts for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

US Club Soccer’s mission is to foster the growth and development of soccer clubs throughout the United States to create the best possible development environment for players of all ages in every club. The organization’s vision statement is to be the finest soccer organization in America and an integral part of U.S. National Team success.

With presidential candidates to be locked in on Dec. 12, the deadline for acquiring the votes needed to be eligible for the election in February, it will be intriguing to see how the four candidates, three of which are former USMNT players, navigate the debate.

You can follow updates from the forum by following US Club Soccer on Twitter.