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Kathy Carter Talks U.S. Soccer Presidential Election And If Gulati, Garber Lobbied for Her

Kathy Carter joined Grant Wahl on the Planet Fútbol podcast to talk about her decision to join the U.S. Soccer presidential race and much more. 

The interview guest on the new Planet Fútbol podcast is Kathy Carter, who entered the race for U.S. Soccer president this week ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for nominations. Carter, who has been the president of Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s marketing arm, in recent years, spoke at length with’s Grant Wahl.

Here are some highlights from the interview, which can be listened to in its entirety here.

On the role the U.S. loss to Trinidad and Tobago and resulting failure to qualify for World Cup 2018 had in her decision to enter the race this late in the game:

Carter: “It was horrifying. It was horrifying from a fan’s standpoint. It was horrifying from a business standpoint. It was horrifying for us in terms of the development of the sport. And I took about six weeks to really reflect on that. And that’s what everybody has done. If I think positively, which I choose to do, that’s given us an opportunity to talk about what actually is going on in our game. So through the course of the last number of weeks I’ve looked at the discourse that’s going on, the conversations, and I have thought to myself there are very few times in your life when you’re given an opportunity to do something to improve the sport in this case that has given me everything. If I didn’t think seriously about entering the race … I don’t think I could actually ever forgive myself. It’s almost as if I’ve trained for this my entire life, both on the field and in the boardroom. So we need somebody with my incredibly diverse background, all in our game, to really lead change in the U.S. Soccer Federation.”

Planet Fútbol podcast: “Several people I have spoken to say that MLS commissioner Don Garber and current U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati have actively lobbied for you to run? Is that true?”

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Carter: “No, they have not. This is 100 percent my decision—my decision and my partner Dave, who is also a former player, who played at Northwestern, played in the former USISL, and recently played in the Maccabiah Games in Israel. We’re both from soccer families. We are a part of this game, and it’s actually how we met. So this is something that I have to do. I would be remiss if I didn’t say I hope I have Don and Sunil’s support, more so because I’ve earned their respect. As I think about my business career, let alone my soccer career, I’ve already talked about being a player, but when you’re short and a goalkeeper, everybody doubts whether or not you can succeed in that position. And I think I did pretty darn well. But actually that life lesson was one of the most important things I brought to business, which was you can never expect to be given respect. You actually have to earn it. That’s something I have consistently done through my entire professional career. So when I think about Don and Sunil, if there’s any support they’re giving me, it’s because of respect.”

Planet Fútbol podcast: “You have been the president of Soccer United Marketing in recent years. What is the best way to describe what Soccer United Marketing is and does?”

Carter: “It is the agency, essentially, for soccer in the United States over time. We have built that sort of credibility. We essentially make the money that sits in the U.S. Soccer coffers today that you made reference to. So we have actually generated the majority of the profits for soccer over the last 15 years.”

Planet Fútbol podcast: “This is an area some of your opponents are going to bring up with you if there are any debates. It would be interesting if there is a debate. But Soccer United Marketing is a private company owned by the MLS owners. It has had a very close and very profitable relationship with the United States Soccer Federation, a non-profit. Are you in any way feeling like there are any conflicts of interest that have resulted from that relationship between Soccer United Marketing and the MLS owners and U.S. Soccer over the years that if you were to become U.S. Soccer president you might want to remove any perceived conflicts of interest?”

Carter: “Well, let me back up for a second. Because I want to go one step deeper on Soccer United Marketing. Everybody thinks we were very profitable as a result of the representation of U.S. Soccer. And I would say if you go back, the deal U.S. Soccer had prior to that was with another agency. IMG, in fact. The difference is the entire purpose of SUM is to all-day, every-day think about the sport of soccer, about how do we grow the game? And whatever profits are actually generated go back into the development of the game. And so whether or not it was profitable, I would argue that whatever we ended up making was the same as what another agency would have made. That’s certainly open for conversation.”

“But ultimately, if I were the [U.S. Soccer] president, my role would change, first and foremost. Beyond that, what I would say is that it’s actually not the president’s role to make these decisions. It’s the role to govern and to ultimately manage the board through the decision-making process. Much of what would be done in interacting with any outside agency, whether that’s SUM or IMG and international media, or any other business partner, is actually managed by Dan Flynn, the CEO, and his staff. So it’s really to them to bring those things to the board. It’s the president’s role to manage how those conversations happen at a board level. The board is on behalf of the membership making decisions. And to my knowledge the board is the one that actually made the decision to go forward with any deals. And so they should in the future as well.”

The rest of the discussion can be heard on the new Planet Fútbol podcast.