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.