Running diary of Sunil Gulati’s conference call

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File
7 Comments

Hello! You’re on the precipice of some of the biggest decisions in United States men’s national team history.

Bruce Arena failed in his bid to earn the United States a place in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and stepped down on Friday.

Now, in the midst of a mass of supporters begging for more upheaval, president Sunil Gulati is answering questions from the media in a Friday morning conference call.

[ MORE: Cameron’s USMNT omission explained ]

We’ll be laying out the play-by-play of this intriguing call here. Stay tuned, and refresh.

11:25 a.m. ET — The call is slated by 11:30 a.m., and the calming piano hold music is surely not the tenor of this conversation. We’ll let you know if it changes to “Hell’s Bells.”

11:32 a.m. ET — Before taking questions, Gulati makes opening statement. “The end of the qualifying campaign was disappointment to all of us. It’s a shock to the system.”

They full expected to qualify, and Gulati thanks Bruce Arena for what he’s done in the history of U.S. Soccer from college to pro to international soccer.

“It saddens me at a personal level that it ended the way it did Tuesday.”

There will be at least two games in November, the first in Europe and the second likely in Europe. Will announce coach in the next 7-10 days.

“We’re going to look into everything we do on the men’s side and women’s side,” something they do all the time. Says it will be a “deeper dive” and include pay-to-play, college, and more.

11:35 a.m. ET – Question – “Why has the player pool quality spiraled down?”

Gulati, “I wouldn’t identify reason or say the pipeline has dried up.” Mentions Matt Miazga, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and says the Olympic failures hurt them.

“Not going to prejudge that. We’re going to look at everything.”

11:36 a.m. ET – Gulati says he doesn’t plan to resign, takes full responsibility for the World Cup qualifying failure, and it’s “not the right day to say” whether he’ll run for a fourth presidential term in February.

11:38 a.m. ET – Question: “Why will you maybe run again?”

Gulati says just as you can’t judge Bruce Arena’s career on this failure, you can’t judge him on this point. He also says voting delegates can help make that decision (Sounds like he’ll run).

11:39 a.m. ET – Doesn’t say the November coach will be strictly interim, but says they will take their time in naming a coach.

11:40 a.m. ET – He’ll announce whether he’ll run in the “coming weeks.”

11:41 a.m. ET – “Who will choose interim coach, and who will be involved in choosing next permanent coach?”

Gulati – In the end it’s my decision, but we have committees that undertake the process. Three or four people will be involve in “much easier” November decision. May be a change in process, but was never a singular decision on men’s or women’s side.

11:42 a.m. ET – “When people point out that second cycle coaches after the World Cup haven’t done as well traditionally as the first time, it’s a very small sample and it’s a biased sample.”

Says this is because people who have been rehired have done well, so hard to improve. Doesn’t know that “there is a definitive pattern.”

“If you look at Bruce’s record, it’s two cycles plus. Every World Cup run we’ve had since 1990, with the exception of 1998, the margin has been especially narrow.”

11:45 a.m. ET – Question: “Any specific issues when it comes to player development you can point to?” and “Will MLS be involved in whatever changes you are looking at?”

Gulati: “We have far more resources now than we’ll ever had… one because US Soccer has more resources and two because MLS has more resources. MLS and our other professional leagues will certainly be involved. … All of the things that we all talk about, the pay-to-play model, inner city soccer, we’re going to look at all of that.”

Says they will try to get outside expertise as well.

11:47 a.m. ET – On whether MLS has improved CONCACAF rivals too much.

Gulati – It’s good for them, and us, because the competition is better.

“I don’t think there’s any rationale in trying to limit that or prohibit that. Having top players in France in the Premier League helps, but the Premier League would never limit that.”

Says MLS, US Soccer goals will never be 100 percent in sync. Has no doubt MLS has helped the USMNT.

11:50 a.m. ET – Gulati offended by question regarding his mandate to run U.S. Soccer. Mentions fan, independent, player involvement better than other governing bodies. Say the U.S. Soccer mechanism is the best out there.

11:51 a.m. ET – Questions: Is there a profile for a coach in mind? and Are November friendlies set up before or after World Cup failure.

Gulati – No profile, just improve performance and technical skills. … Multiple contingencies based on whether they advanced to World Cup, needed a playoff, or failed.

11:53 a.m. ET – Does this loss give needed push vis-a-vis pay-to-play, other community initiatives.

“It doesn’t happen in most countries that players pay nothing. We need to make sure players are prohibited” from playing based on money. “As things become more expensive, where there’s a roadblock, you’d like to do something about it.”

“Need to find right solutions, what will work” in terms of player development in inner cities, facilities, etc.

Will help overcome political hurdles “because people will see urgency.”

11:56 a.m. ET – Should Gulati’s job be a paying gig to encourage interest?

Gulati – We’re looking at it, and have been reviewing it for some time.

11:57 a.m. ET – Any signs Tuesday that things weren’t well.

Gulati – “Any time you’re playing a do-or-die game, you’re nervous about it. It’s the first time since 1989 that we came down to the last game. In the end we didn’t get it done but no premonition about that.”

11:59 a.m. ET – Question: Technical director role status. Coming back? Separate from head coach? And how busy will USMNT be with long break from meaningful games.

Gulati – “Ideally we’d like to have a technical director. Most of that role (post-Klinsmann) has been filled by Tab Ramos. … We do see two distinct roles if we can find the right people. That role is a very unique and specific role, and harder to fill than national team role.”

“In terms of activity in 2018, we’ll have a full program of games and I expect us to play on all FIFA dates, including dates with teams going to the World Cup or not.”

12:01 p.m. ET – On the nomination process for U.S. Soccer president.

Gulati –  “Up until a year ago, or 20 months ago, we changed our nomination rules to have nominations come long before the annual meeting. The primary reason was to be able to have background checks. Nominations are due I think two months before the election (in February).

“We have probably 120 different member associations that can nominate people, and you need three nominations to be eligible. I don’t think that will preclude anyone.”

Admits he has reached out to people about nominating or endorsing him.

12:03 p.m. ET – Can you understand the point of view of people who think he shouldn’t have his job?

Gulati – “Sure. I can understand the frustration. Sure.”

12:08 p.m. ET – Why do you feel you’re the right guy for this job, given what happened?

Gulati – “Because of where the sport is now, and the role I played in it, plus where it can go if I choose to run.”

12:09 p.m. ET – What do you say to fans who are really upset, and calling for change?

Gulati – “All of us involved in the game are also passionate about the team, and are extraordinarily disappointed in every single way. None of us is happy about not going. This reconfirmed the passion and support of the team has grown tremendously.”

12:10 p.m. ET – That’s all she wrote. Many people not called upon for questions (including me, to be honest). Lot of softballs, to be painfully honest.