Asked to speak at the US Youth Soccer Hall of Fame dinner in Philadelphia, outgoing U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati spent 17 minutes absolutely slamming a number of presidential candidates and those critical of the organization in the wake of missing the 2018 World Cup.
Gulati cautioned against lofty promises candidates have been making by saying “all that glitters is not gold” and lamented attacks against the organization and its current leadership, saying “it’s ok to have opinions, but that’s not discourse.”
The 58-year-old began by taking specific aim at a van parked outside the event that apparently attacked himself, presidential candidate Kathy Carter, fellow candidate and current vice president Carlos Cordeiro, and MLS commissioner Don Garber, calling it “absolutely disgraceful.”
“The facts don’t get changed by calling people names, or saying they’re not competent, or having trucks outside,” Gulati said. “There’s ways to have elections with a positive tone, and the tone in this election is far from that, and to me that’s very disappointing.
The overall tone of his speech centered around the idea that things in US Soccer were trending upwards for many years until one loss, referencing the loss to Trinidad & Tobago that eliminated the United States from World Cup contention, seemed to change the entire discussion. “We lost a really big game in October in Trinidad,” Gulati said. “But we sent the most successful coach in the history of American soccer with a virtually healthy squad and we lost a game.”
He continued looking to diminish the one result among the relative growth of the sport in the United States. “Where we are today is in pretty damn good shape,” Gulati said. “We have done a pretty damn good job of getting the sport to where it is.”
Gulati attacked promises by candidates to end pay to play, saying that the U.S. Soccer surplus wouldn’t come close to being enough to end the practice. “I did economics as an undergrad, not math, but that math does not pencil out, and it doesn’t pencil out for any of you, just do the math – pretty simple. It’s billions of dollars. So when you hear things like that, challenge it. Think about it. Ask questions.”
He also slammed presidential candidates who attacked the federation’s bid for the 2026 World Cup, “Why would anybody seeking to stand where I am standing now…in any shape or form criticize our World Cup effort or think it’s in jeopardy? All 8 of the candidates and everybody in this room should be unified in that.”
Gulati also attacked ideas of promotion and relegation, changing the substitution rules, television revenue, compliance with the FIFA statutes, moving the MLS season, making the presidential position a paid position, and the discussion of electing “a soccer person.”
Gulati summarized his speech by quoting former New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. “And then I heard that the federation is out of compliance with 13 FIFA statutes, which is false. That’s not an opinion. The great senator Moynihan from New York said, ‘everyone is entitled to their own opinion’ but he also said ‘not everyone is entitled to their own facts.’ These are facts.”
You can watch the full speech here.