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US Soccer president Sunil Gulati will not run for reelection

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Under-fire US Soccer president Sunil Gulati will not run for re-election during the voting process in February, he announced on Monday.

Gulati told ESPN that stepping down is “the best thing for me personally, and for the federation.” Under Gulati’s watch, the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986, with the final blow coming in a road loss to Trinidad & Tobago.

“Look, the general perception in the soccer community versus the people who vote in elections may be different right now,” Gulati said in the ESPN report. “But the loss to Trinidad was painful, regrettable and led to a lot of strong emotions. And to be honest, I think at this point, that’s overshadowed a lot of other things that are important. So fair or not, I accept that and think it’s time for a new person.”

The 58-year-old has been in charge of US Soccer since 2006. He served as vice-president for six years prior to his election.

The idea that Gulati may not run for re-election first surfaced in mid-October when he announced he would not resign his post at that time, but that he had not decided his intentions for the future. On Sunday, Sports Illustrated and Fox Soccer journalist Grant Wahl reported that Gulati was considering stepping down and supporting Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter in the upcoming election.

Notable candidates who have announced they will run to replace Gulati include current vice-president Carlos Cordeiro, former players and current media personalities Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino, and Boston attorney Steve Gans. Carter has not officially announced her candidacy, but did say she is considering a run, with the reported backing of both Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber. The deadline to announce one’s candidacy is December 12th, and the election is February 10th.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and talking about it with people in many different positions — many of whom told me I should run,” Gulati said. “But in the end, I think the best thing for me personally, and for the federation, is to see someone new in the job.”

Gulati will not be leaving the US Soccer landscape cold turkey. He confirmed to ESPN that he would still be heavily involved in the North America joint-bid for the 2026 World Cup. While opposition to Gulati’s tenure has been outspoken since the travesty of the latest World Cup qualifying cycle, Gulati has presided over exponential growth of the sport in the United States.

Why “soccer NIT” tournament would be a bad idea

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U.S. Soccer and Soccer United Marketing (SUM) are reportedly investigating if they can stage a tournament in the USA next summer featuring prominent teams who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

So, in College Basketball terms, an “NIT” tournament ahead of the World Cup in Russia. This is not a joke.

[ MORE: Portugal-USA recap | Player ratings ] 

On the face of it, this seems like a splendid idea for many. Fans of the U.S. national team shared similar proposals on Twitter and Facebook as the list of big name nations failing to qualify for the World Cup increased over the past few days. I’m all for growing the sport in the USA and having as many high-profile games as often as possible in the U.S. is a good thing.

But not like this. No. No. No.

Having the U.S. at the centerpiece of an international laughing stock in the world of soccer just isn’t a good look. This should be the end of it. U.S. Soccer should be focusing on bigger problems, like making sure youth development continues to improve and having a clear plan for the future of the USMNT in place. Not this.

Having three or four money-spinning friendlies formulated in a loose tournament format to simply help ease the pain of World Cup failure is pointless.

It seems as though U.S. fans who have been robbed of seeing their team at the elite international tournament next summer are stomping their feet and want an alternative. Guys. There isn’t one. Let’s all move on.

In theory, stadiums across the USA will be full for multiple high-profile friendlies between Italy, Chile, Ghana and the USA . So, that’s good. Right? There have also been suggestions about capping the tournament so that all the players who feature are under the age 25 and that way you get to see the next generation of each nation as they rebuild their rosters following World Cup failure. So, why not?

Well, how about, why?

Other than making somebody, somewhere huge profits for full stadiums during these friendlies, I’m struggling with a viable answer. FIFA wouldn’t sanction any such tournament and it certainly wouldn’t be allowed to run into the start of the World Cup which runs from June 14 to July 15.

There is no official FIFA window for games scheduled in late May or early June. Only teams heading to the World Cup will look to play friendlies in late May and early June and the only reason the teams who didn’t qualify will be in demand is because the 32 teams who made the World Cup will not want to play against anybody they could be facing in Russia.

That means the U.S. will likely play two friendlies in June, just as they have in previous “sendoff series'” games before a World Cup. Of course, they will be going nowhere this summer but that should be it. Two friendlies, then Christian Pulisic should be allowed to spend the summer in California hanging out.

Let’s just all move on from the USA’s 2018 World Cup qualifying debacle and let’s not have the U.S. become the home, and the figurehead, to a tournament where it would be fitting to plaster a sad face emoji on the wooden spoon trophy given to the winning team.

But proponents would argue that in this “NIT” format, the U.S. could, in theory, host two games against two of Chile, Italy and Ghana with each team playing one another once. So, six games in total.

But why not go the whole hog and invite seven other nations — the Netherlands, Ivory Coast, Republic of Ireland and Wales aren’t up to much next summer now — to the USA and have an eight-team tournament with two groups of four and the top two teams from each group reach the semifinals before a final is played where the winner receives a golden wooden spoon.

Listen to how ridiculous that sounds. That is basically what is being proposed.

I have no doubt that given the growing level of fandom (see: the Copa America Centenario in 2016 and huge preseason friendlies each summer) in the USA and the fact that citizens of many other nations now call the U.S. home and barely get a chance to see their own nations play in person, that stadiums would be pretty full for most of these games.

In truth, that’s the main reason why organizers are contemplating hosting these friendly games in the U.S. Think about it.

I’m sure players like Alexis Sanchez, Marco Verratti, Virgil Van Dijk and Pulisic would love to be in the USA next summer after a monster domestic season… but on vacation and trying to get as far away as possible from reminders that they should have been at the World Cup instead.

The fact that the U.S. is even contemplating organizing and hosting this event is part of the bigger problem. For so many years U.S. Soccer has been a supreme business model with huge profits made. But that’s come at a cost, which is, obviously, not being in Russia next summer.

It’s time for U.S. Soccer to move on and focus on one thing: the U.S. national team and getting the best possible two friendlies in June. Nothing else. And then, after those friendlies are over, they should sit back and watch the 2018 World Cup so they can realize just how badly they mishandled the last four-year cycle after Brazil 2014.

How will US Soccer’s presidential election work?

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With plenty of scrutiny surrounding U.S. Soccer after the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, current U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati is under plenty of pressure to step down.

[ MORE: Cordeiro enters the race ]

Gulati has said he will not resign from his position but is yet to declare if he intends to run to be reelected as president in the upcoming election in early 2018. One thing is for sure: there will be contenders this time.

For the last 11 years Gulati has run unopposed in USSF presidential elections but several contenders are lining up and it is an intriguing time for everyone connected with U.S. Soccer. But how will all of this work?

Below is an explainer on the upcoming presidential election, who could take charge and how the voting system works.


When did candidates have to declare their interest?
Presidential candidates have to declare their interest by December 10, 2017, and have at least three formal nominations from current members to be eligible.


When does the election take place?
At the U.S. Soccer AGM on February 10, 2018 in Orlando, Florida.


Who votes?
A breakdown on who votes is below, with the percentage of the vote from each group on the right. In the Athletes Council the likes of Brad Guzan, Stu Holden and Carlos Bocanegra will be part of the voting committee, while the Professional Council includes MLS Commissioner Don Garber and North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik among others.

Youth Council: 25.8%
Adult Council: 25.8%
Professional Council: 25.8%
Athletes Council: 20%
Miscellaneous: 2.6%


Who wants to be U.S. Soccer president?
Steve Gans – A lawyer and former COO, Boston-based Gans has a strong business background and plans to fix the “pay-to-play” culture in youth soccer by using USSF funds. Would also appoint a GM/Technical Director for USSF to deal with soccer decisions.

Paul Lapointe – A long-time player, coach and official in the lower tiers of U.S. Soccer who wants promotion/relegation in the lower tiers but not in MLS. Currently the Northeast United Premiere Soccer League (UPSL) Conference Manager.

Eric Wynalda – Outspoken former USMNT standout. Promises sweeping changes to structure, youth development, adding promotion/relegation and potentially changing the MLS schedule to fall/spring to match the rest of the world. TV analyst who is likely to get plenty of attention as the anti-establishment choice.

Carlos Cordeiro – Current vice president of USSF, who announced he will run this week. Long-time friend of Gulati with a hugely impressive business background who openly admits he isn’t a soccer expert. Some believe Cordeiro would simply be like having Gulati in charge. He wants to bid for the 2027 Women’s World Cup.

Landon Donovan – USMNT legend has suggested he would like to run for president and his name would obviously get plenty of support but there are concerns over his lack of experience in terms of the business and political side of soccer.

Sunil Gulati – We don’t know if he is running for re-election but Gulati is in a very powerful position despite the USMNT’s failure. He is the head of the 2026 World Cup bid to bring the tournament to the USA, Canada and Mexico, plus he sits on the FIFA Executive Committee and is a long-time friend of current FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Even if he doesn’t stand for re-election, Gulati will likely still be on the U.S. Soccer board as a non-voting member just like previous USSF president, Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia.


Potential President Wynalda discusses plans for US Soccer

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Eric Wynalda joined Paul Pabst and Andrew Perloff in the latest edition of The Leisuremen podcast and had plenty of intriguing things to say about his decision to run for U.S. Soccer Fedration (USSF) president.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news, analysis ]

Following the USMNT’s embarrassing failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Wynalda, 48, has thrown his hat into the ring to challenge incumbent USSF boss Sunil Gulati and plans on having the likes of Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Julie Foudy involved if he succeeds in February’s presidential election.

The former USMNT star is a current analyst with Fox Sports and is the coach of the LA Wolves in the United Premier Soccer League, but he has big plans to shake up U.S. Soccer from the top down.

Speaking to the guys, Wynalda revealed that this is something he has been thinking about for quite some time.

“I’ve been feeling this way for about 6-8 years. This wasn’t just about something that happened on a Tuesday night in Trinidad,” Wynalda said. “The problem we are having right now, in our country, is that we are completely all over the place. It is so fragmented and people don’t see that. All they see is that final product of our team trying to qualify for the World Cup. We don’t make it and then everyone is screaming at the reins.

“Everybody wants change and wants to get better but nobody really has a solution and that’s where it gets frustrating from a guy on the outside looking in. Then you come to the realization that this is a leadership problem. This is a problem which starts literally with one man. The reason I threw my hat in the ring is 1) I know I can win this election because it is more of a culture problem than anything and 2) I have a plan. Those are the two things Mr. Gulati has really never understood completely.”

You can listen to the interview in full by clicking play above, but below are some key points Wynalda made about the problems facing U.S. Soccer and how he hopes to fix them.


Wynalda took aim at claims that “incredible growth” has occurred across the U.S. Soccer realm in the past decade

“When you really look and dig down at the professional level and see what’s going on a tiers 1, 2 and 3, it is the most disorganized professional outfit on the planet. Then you try to look at the youth organizations who are trying to develop the next superstars and they are even more fragmented than the pros. While we sit back and celebrate all this growth, it is almost that we have to remind people that cancer grows organically too.

“If you don’t have a vision and don’t have a means of getting everybody understanding exactly what their function is within the system, it is not going to work. We are celebrating it right now but the truth is it needs a lot of change, in a hurry, if soccer is going to make sense in this country because we are almost growing out of control. We have become a weed. We talk about grassroots but we have a lot of weeds. This is not the way it is supposed to be.”

Wynalda believes the talent is there for the U.S. to create plenty more players of Christian Pulisic’s caliber

“Is there talent? Absolutely. Absolutely. I would argue that there are 100 more Christian Pulisic’s out there. That is quite the statement. I’m coming from practice right now with a bunch of amateur guys that we discovered an 18-year-old Mexican-American boy in a Sunday league two weeks ago and he’s probably going to be the best guy on my team this year. These are the kind of things that are misunderstood.

“I went on the podium the other day and said we don’t have time for a president who has one foot in New York and one foot in Switzerland, we need a president that has boots on the ground now and starts solving some of the problems. That talent is out there. We just have to find them and make sure we take care of that.”

On how you can create a better type of player for the U.S. without centralizing youth development

“Germany are the size of Oklahoma, so we have different challenges. What I’ve argued is that if you take Iceland as a model and what they’ve been able to accomplish in a very short space of time, just by getting organized, it is a lot easier to organize yourself if you are the size of Rhode Island. We are a massive country and just as our accents change as we move across the country, so does the personality of our players.

“I’m a huge proponent of allowing Dallas to be Dallas. Miami to be Miami. New York to be New York. And the kids in Southern California or LA, the city kids, they’ve got to have that raw attitude. We have to have all of those personalities but we do a bad job with that because when we centralize it, when we think they all have to be thinking the same, that’s when someone isn’t thinking. That’s why we don’t have a personality or have an identity when we play.”

Wynalda intends to change perception some may have on him from his “hot takes” on TV, include former U.S. stars

“I am usually, when it comes to my family or the real world problems, I am the guy that you are going to give the penalty kick to because when the world is swirling around me I’m able to make really solid decisions in moments of pressure. It is going to take people a while to understand and it’s going to take 6-8 months from now when people say, ‘this guy does know what he’s doing and he’s not the guy I thought he was’ and I need to make that happen.”

“One of the things I’ve offered is the structure of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). Right now there is only about three of four guys running the whole deal. There is some branch out but we don’t have enough people making soccer decisions. On our board we have guys running hedge funds, the Clinton Foundation etc. but we don’t have real soccer people solving real soccer problems. Landon Donovan would be great. Timmy [Howard] would be great. Julie Foudy would be great. These are people who need to be at the table and given roles within our structure that they can be passionate about and bring their expertise to and will allow us to address these issues appropriately. Right now it’s hard.”

Wynalda will soon be on the campaign trail, visiting Utah, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Seattle, northern California and Phoenix, among others, to try and “find out what the problem is” in each city and state

“I am going to need guys like Landon, guys like Brian McBride in my corner and a guy I can bounce different ideas off of and he will come back with maybe a different look. As opposed to a politician who would say ‘how can we manipulate this? How do we control this? How do we benefit from this?’ because that’s what we have got right now.”

Wynalda revealed that Lionel Messi’s best friend plays for his team in Southern California and he would look to ask for Messi’s opinion and other stars to try and help U.S. Soccer progress

“That is my network by the way. These are the people I talk to and the people I want to bring into my outer circle. I need to know what someone like Zinedine Zidane thinks about what is going on over here. We can get to Ronaldo. I can sit with someone like Franz Beckenbauer and he can give me the whole background, the whole picture. I don’t know how expensive that bottle of wine is going to be… but we’re going to solve something. There’s a huge world out there that at times we have stayed away from. We have created our own model and unfortunately a couple of Tuesday’s ago we were reminded that our model doesn’t work and it needs drastic change.”

On what it would mean if Wynalda did become the next president of U.S. Soccer

“If I do, all that means is soccer has won. And that soccer will succeed in this country and progress. I’m hoping for that and I need support and I need people to understand my message. I have a lot of time to get that message across and maybe reintroduce myself to people who maybe think I am somebody else.”

Report: Landon Donovan mulling U.S. Soccer presidential run

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Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has been all over the turmoil at United States Soccer since the men’s national team’s embarrassing World Cup qualifying ouster last week.

The latest is that many interested observers are encouraging American legend Landon Donovan to run against Sunil Gulati in February’s presidential election.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Donovan retired from playing for a second time in 2016. He’s invested in Premier League club Swansea City and tried his hand at broadcasting as well.

According to Wahl, Donovan issued no comment when asked whether he is seriously considering a run for president. Gulati didn’t confirm that he’d run for a fourth term — the maximum tenure — during his post-World Cup failure conference call, but strongly lauded his credentials for another stint.

Wahl had previously reported that lawyer Steve Gans has the required letters of nomination to run against Gulati.

While Gans would challenge Gulati and perhaps make for interesting debate and a bellwether of the appetite for change amongst the constituency, Donovan’s name would likely be enough to swing some voters regardless.

Without making any judgments about the job Donovan would do, think of it as a big entertainment name like Dwayne Johnson amongst Democrats or Donald Trump amongst Republicans who might upturn eyebrows amongst folks thinking, “Maybe we need something different.” The name value isn’t the same but perhaps it’s less polarizing to compare the runs of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, or Jack Kemp and Steve Largent instead.

A Donovan run would likely keep U.S Soccer’s cozy relationship with Major League Soccer while perhaps emboldening those who seek big changes within the youth structure (Donovan was part of the U.S. residency program which was recently canceled in a sort of “We did it” nod to academies). His experience is varied and his network exceptional.

Donovan for President? Maybe!