And then there were eight.
On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer announced the official candidates who will stand in the election for federation president that will take place on Feb. 10 in Orlando, Florida. To become an official candidate required receiving three formal nominating letters of support and passing a background check. The deadline to supply those nominations was Dec. 12, but the time required to complete the background check process resulted in the delay of revealing the qualified candidates. Out of the initial group of nine people who claimed they would run, only Paul Lapointe did not reach the final stage.
Here are the official candidates vying to replace Sunil Gulati, who has been the federation president since 2006 and announced earlier this month that he will not seek re-election (in alphabetical order):
A former national team standout who famously scored the goal that sent the U.S. to its first men’s World Cup in 40 years in 1990, Caligiuri has provided fewer details of his candidacy than former players Wynalda and Martino. He is in favor of promotion and relegation and includes having the USWNT win World Cup 2019 and the USMNT win World Cup 2022 as planks in his platform. Among the former players running, Caligiuri will face a challenge gaining the support that Wynalda and Martino have in the race.
The on-leave president of Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s marketing arm, Carter has a long track record on the business side of American soccer, and she also played the game at William and Mary. Critics will argue that Carter would only strengthen the concern that for-profit MLS/SUM and non-profit U.S. Soccer are too cozy, and her business acumen may be viewed as less important at a time when it’s the soccer side of the federation that needs improvement. Carter, who is vying to become the first woman to be president of U.S. Soccer, will have to persuade voters outside the Pro Council that her plan to be inclusive on decision-making (including on technical matters) will work.
The current vice president of U.S. Soccer and a former Goldman Sachs executive, Cordeiro split from longtime ally Gulati to announce his candidacy before Gulati pulled out of the race. Cordeiro has plenty of experience inside U.S. Soccer—he has been on the board since 2007—but, like Carter, he will have to convince voters that he can provide effective leadership on the soccer side. (Cordeiro has proposed more inclusive decision-making and having a “general manager” in charge of technical decisions.) Carter’s late entry into the race hurts Cordeiro more than anyone else, but Cordeiro can argue that he’s not part of the MLS/SUM group whose influence on U.S. Soccer has raised questions about the federation’s independence.
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Neither a federation insider nor a former national team player, Gans is a Boston-based lawyer and former COO who has advised the business sides of youth soccer and Premier League clubs. He’s also the lone candidate who can say he had the vision to get into the race before the U.S. men’s failure to qualify for the World Cup. Gans did play professionally in the indoor game and wants to address the pay-to-play issue in part with money from the federation’s $130 million surplus. His challenge will be to find a path to victory despite not having the voter pull that comes with being a federation insider or recognition as a former national team player.
On leave from his job at NBC as a Premier League analyst, Martino is a former national team player who has drawn support from several former star players, including David Beckham, Thierry Henry and former U.S. men’s and women’s standouts, many of whom remain unnamed due to concerns about angering the federation's political establishment. Martino is convening sessions of influencers to help produce a “Progress Plan” for U.S. Soccer that he will release publicly. Critics of Martino note his lack of experience in business or running an organization.
Perhaps the greatest U.S. goalkeeper of all time and the most famous person in the race, the polarizing Solo was a late entry into the campaign but gained the necessary nominations to be an official candidate. Her candidacy announcement focused on improving the financial challenges facing youth soccer players that she herself experienced growing up in Washington.
A corporate attorney in New York City who played in Israel, Winograd is an outsider to the federation who nevertheless combines experience in legal negotiations with coaching at the youth and collegiate levels and administration at the lower-league pro level. Winograd has gained some momentum at speaking events involving the candidates, and his ability to land the necessary nominations will give him about two more months to build on his longshot candidacy.
On leave from his job at Fox Sports as a soccer analyst, Wynalda is a former national team standout who has put in extensive work meeting with Adult and Youth Council voting representatives to turn himself into a credible candidate. Wynalda has leveraged a populist appeal to those who are angriest over the U.S. men’s World Cup qualifying failure and the influence and business relationships of MLS/SUM with U.S. Soccer. Supporters of Wynalda will say he has the soccer chops and the boldness to improve what ails U.S. Soccer the most. Critics will argue that he doesn’t have the temperament or the experience to run an organization effectively.