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U.S. Soccer Is Divided Against Itself

by on 3 January 2018

The shocking failure of the U.S. men’s national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup continues to reverberate around the U.S. Soccer scene. There is a malaise, as everyone knows, and change is needed.

The most visible and possibly impactful outlet for the angst of the American fanbase has been the wide open election campaign to replace Sunil Gulati as president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Most of the oxygen in the race has been sucked up by a bombastic populist with dubious qualifications, who is ill-trusted by elites and may have shady foreign backing. The ostensibly favored candidate is a woman who is clearly the most qualified, and who excites practically nobody because of her close ties to the status quo.

It goes without saying that this race, which is just a couple months old, already feels like it has gone on far too long.

But the more serious issue is that the campaign and wider post-elimination debate has failed to generate any consensus on exactly what needs to be done to “fix” U.S. Soccer. In fact, there is barely a consensus on what exactly — if even anything — is wrong with U.S. Soccer in the first place, besides the obvious failure to book a ticket to Russia.

The most persuasive argument might actually be that nothing much needs to be changed. The Yanks’ elimination came through an extraordinarily absurd series of events, that included both Panama and Honduras upsetting Costa Rica and Mexico, the former through a phantom goal that never occurred and the latter through a couple of fluky goals. Meanwhile the U.S. allowed two highly unusual goals of their own. Even then, the USMNT finished the Hex with the third highest goal differential, and on 12 points, they finished better than Mexico did in the qualification cycle beforehand, when El Tri was saved from a similar ignominy by a late American rally against Panama. The Mexicans proceeded to make the World Cup and impress, showing that their qualifying cycle woes could be corrected simply by better coaching and different players. Need the U.S. blow everything up?

The future of the USMNT player pool also suggests there’s plenty that’s going right with U.S. Soccer. Even before the defeat in Trinidad, soccer writers were covering the lost generation of youth players who had failed to make good on their promise. The 2017 USMNT then, was carried mainly by players who would’ve been replaced by younger players, had those players been good enough. The fact that they weren’t is a damning indictment of U.S. Soccer… in 2007-2012, when these players were graduating from youth to senior ranks and failed to progress. But there’s no such evidence of a similar drought now, with a wave of impressive young players maturing both domestically and abroad. Whatever ailed American soccer development in past years may well have been already corrected, if Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and others are any indication.

Meanwhile the nation’s flagship domestic league, Major League Soccer, is seeing growing attendance numbers, increasing investment, and improving quality. The league’s turnaround from near-death is taken for granted now, but it shouldn’t be. Not too long ago, the failure of the USMNT to make the World Cup might’ve proven disastrous for the league. Now, it’s not even a question that it will survive and continue to grow.

Against this backdrop, the USMNT failure seems just a bit more, with the benefit of hindsight, like the kind of once-in-a-few-decades slip up that befalls even such storied soccer nations as Italy, the Netherlands, and Chile.

This is not to say that U.S. Soccer is without issues, or that it did not inflict its own wounds. The management of the USMNT looks dreadful in hindsight, with Jürgen Klinsmann being awarded an unearned extension, then unceremoniously fired and replaced by Bruce Arena, whose steady hand on the tiller was a bit too sclerotic. It remains stupidly expensive to get a coaching license in the country, and the pay-to-play youth academy system forecloses unknown numbers of talented but poor youth from elite training. The management of the USWNT also leaves a lot to be desired, and issues about compensation and respect seem far from resolved. Lower division teams are still folding at unacceptable rates, and an entire league may soon follow. The next President of the USSF will rightly face pressure to make more progress on these kitchen table issues, even if that means a little less progress is made for the game’s investors and other monied interests.

But no candidate for the office has made a believable case that larger baby-and-bathwater reform is needed, let alone how it would occur. There are too many hobby horses in the American soccer scene, and when the USMNT failed its qualification, each one was trotted out and linked, however tangentially, to the team’s failure. The effect of this — as has repeatedly been the case thanks to advocates who have done far more harm to their causes than good — has been to discredit these ideas and give way instead to a mishmash of noise, with opportunists and malcontents getting their say and little progress being made publicly on important discussions.

We are left instead, with inanity like this strikingly dumb Deadspin attack on MLS expansion, in which the league’s growth is the confusing scapegoat for the USMNT failure, and is apparently the only sports related item that this sports website thinks “needs to die” in 2018. How exactly building wildly successful new clubs and pro academy structures in major American metro areas is supposed to be a detriment to the national team is left unexplained. (What does the author think about Atlanta United’s academy winning the U-15/16 USSDA national title? Does the author think that Atlanta’s star youth players Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin, and George Bello would be better developing in the NCAA? Without MLS expansion which team would’ve signed Brandon Vasquez instead?) It is as if through through sheer dissatisfaction alone, American fans ought to arrive at the answer.

In a small way, Deadspin‘s famous and bewildering grudge against MLS is good evidence for one of the biggest maladies affecting the American game — one that we should all at least be able to agree upon. Here is one of the country’s preeminent sports websites whose coverage of the top American soccer product is marred by fits of pique. Why?

American soccer fans pull together impressively in support of the men’s and women’s national teams. But in all other matters of practice and policy, there is disunion. Plenty of American soccer fans only watch the game on TV at 9 a.m., and plenty of others only watch it at the stadium at 7 p.m. What vision for American soccer binds these fans together?

What should be the position of America within the global soccer world? What should be the position of MLS within the global soccer world? What will the men’s American professional pyramid look like in the future? How many teams are enough for MLS? If it reaches such a limit, what happens then? Can league structures be reformed in a generally beneficial way? What is the correct model of growth for the NWSL? What is the best way to sustain the careers of the USWNT players? What long-term role should the NCAA play in both the men’s and women’s games? How can youth development be improved?

These are vital questions about which there will always be passionate argument between even friends and allies. But what is so profoundly unproductive and frustrating is that the universe of American soccer fans don’t seem to be on the same side just to start. Several U.S. Soccer presidential candidates — and certainly some of their supporters — seem actively antagonistic to MLS and would blow up the league’s entire structure if they had the chance. Several U.S. Soccer presidential candidates — not to mention its current leadership — seem completely uninterested in leagues besides MLS and give no indication they would lift a finger to save them from trouble. Many Americans want to see American stars develop out of MLS, and many others seemingly just want the best of their countrymen to magically identify themselves and proceed directly to Europe. Is leadership of this polity possible? Where is a unifying voice who can speak to all sides? What is a unifying theme?

I watched Minnesota United FC all of 2017; I know what it looks like when different players have their own agendas, and commitment to shared success is suspect. It’s not a recipe for lots of wins. Yet while the Loons can make significant changes during transfer windows — or not, I guess, it’s a free country — the true problems with U.S. Soccer, the deep underlying ones that transcend qualifying cycles and seasons, seem as intractable and elusive as ever.


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  • MmattN

    American soccer is not exempt from the change a platform (the internet) that puts each of our opinions on equal footing than any other walk of life. To put my pessimism more clearly; I expect almost every institution to go through drastic, scary, and rudderless change until the internet is done reshaping humans and society. It is no surprise or coincidence that you began this article alluding to the 2016 election, we are as a nation place the individual above the community. So the change and dysfunction the internet will bring, while it works on us, will be far more chaotic.

    • Alex Schieferdecker

      That seems a good way of putting it. Thanks for reading.

  • Josh Westerman

    1. Most of the oxygen in the race has been sucked up by a bombastic populist with dubious qualifications, who is ill-trusted by elites and may have shady foreign backing.

    –> Assume you are referencing Wynalda sucking most of the oxygen. Have you heard Martini speak?

    –> Dubious qualifications? Compared to a Columbia lecturer? Compared to Carter? Yeah, right!

    –> He just provided full transparency on his backers.

    2. The ostensibly favored candidate is a woman who is clearly the most qualified, and who excites practically nobody because of her close ties to the status quo.

    –> Assume you are referencing Carter. Favored by who?

    –> People she excites: Sunil, Don Garber and Merritt Paulson.

    –> “Clearly the most qualified.” Based on what? Just because she pilots a desk doesn’t mean she’s a great leader or savvy business person. What are her real credentials? How many employees is she responsible for? What’s the size of the budget that she managed? What are her greatest accomplishments for SUM? SUM, as far as I can tell, only does one thing, only has two customers and probably has like 6 employees. SUM doesn’t even have a LinkedIn profile. How does managing that make her qualified to lead the USSF?

    • Deej

      But he is being backed by Silva who is suing the USSF and is using Wynalda so he doesn’t have to pay a MLS expansion fee(pro/rel) and can compete with SUM. It’s all about the money.

      • Josh Westerman

        Yeah, Eric Wynalda is a tool. You’ve got to be kidding. I agree that Silva and Eric share a perspective on pro / rel, and maybe that’s a convenient add to the EW platform to garner the backing, by EW has been contemplating this run for at least 5 years and is in this for his own reasons.

        • David Sterling

          This is incredibly naive. We (I am speaking for myself, and assuming you) have been going on about potential conflicts of interest within USSF for years, then suddenly a new candidate comes along, (probably heavily financially) backed by Silva – who wants to literally up-end MLS and all its growth by the way – and we’re supposed to simply assume it is entirely on the up and up, that there is no conflict, or agenda here? You’ve got to be kidding, right?
          “EW has been contemplating this run for at least 5 years”. Do you have a citation for that?
          In an interview for an article in the Guardian from September, Eric stated he didn’t know if he was going to run, but that “‘I am finally at the point where I’m asking, ‘What can I do to help?’ I don’t want to tweet something or write an article or start a fight. I want to roll up my sleeves.’”

          I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound like someone who has been contemplating a run for “at least 5 years”. It sounds like someone who wants to finally get involved, as of September 2017, and that USSF President may be a good place to do that.

          • Josh Westerman

            There’s an article from several years ago (prior to the 2014 election) about him contemplating a run. I’m sure you can find it.

            There’s only a potential for a conflict of interest if and when he gets elected. Even then, the potential conflicts are confined to a narrow set of issues, and checks and balances and governance procedures are robust. There’s really no issue now that he has disclosed the relationship.

    • Alex Schieferdecker

      This is a good post demonstrating what I find so tiresome about this whole process.

      In arguing for a candidate you appear to support, (and in implicitly assuming that I support a candidate that I do not, as it happens, support) you make a series of extremely misleading statements about a lot of people.

      1. Martino, not Martini
      2. Sunil Gulati wasn’t elected to the post because he was a “Columbia lecturer,” he was probably elected because he had worked since 1994 as MLS Deputy Commissioner, President of Kraft Soccer Properties, and US Soccer Executive Vice President. I ripped those right out of his US Soccer biography, this stuff is super easy to look up.
      3. Wynalda “provided full transparency on his backers,” as far as I can tell, only after he was forced to when the questions became too loud to ignore.
      4. Carter is very obviously qualified for the position (which is a desk job). She currently is the President of SUM. Previously she worked with AEG. She has a long career in sports, and ample experience as a manager. Again, you can look all this up.

      These are facts. It’s disappointing that you felt the case for your candidate could be best made by resorting to petty deception and bluster. This lack of good faith is a symptom of exactly what this article was about. I’m perturbed that people cannot come out and make affirmative and honest cases for the people they support and the vision of US Soccer they want to enact.

      • Josh Westerman

        You literally post something full of BS, get called on it and your response is that the person calling you out is a bad actor because you disagree with his facts. You’re part of the problem that you take issue with.

        • David Sterling

          It’s Martino; Kyle Martino.
          The fact you don’t know that, or worse, you did realize your mistake and simply decided to continue the lie because you’re some how too stubborn to admit your fault, makes it hard to believe you know anything about the candidate you (presumably) support, or those you do not, or are remotely willing to have an honest discussion about the issues in US soccer and only further supports Alex’s statement, “This is a good post demonstrating what I find so tiresome about this whole process.”
          Alex’s response to your “BS” is succinct and evidence-filled, even if I don’t agree with his possible view. Not sure what you’re looking for.

          • Josh Westerman

            Kyle “Martino” – you don’t say?! Wow, thanks for pointing that out…

  • Martin 33

    Reasonably sober, apparently well informed and intelligently presented.

    Clearly you have no future in this business where US soccer fans demand red meat no matter how tainted , where there is no such thing as nuance. The USSF deserves its fans and critics .

    Your article reads like it could be describing a dispute in my block association over lawn ornaments.

    Lawn ornaments. Yeah that’s just about right. Amateurs.

  • GabeTown

    Look, this is a noble attempt to navigate clearly very passionate waters, but I want to respectfully argue that the divide you’ve identified originates from the current institutional structures. There are 2 things in conflict here…

    1. The mission of USSF (to grow the sport in the US at all levels so we advance as a soccer nation, e.g. participation, competitiveness, etc.)
    2. The mission of MLS (to advance the organizational priorities of growth, visibility, etc. in order to protect the financial interests of MLS and its owners.)

    Now, either you believe these 2 things are aligned or you don’t. They may once have been, and the people that currently control the sport clearly believe they always have been and still are and are operating as such. But there comes a time when they logically *can not* be in alignment and #2 will begin to hurt #1. I think we’ve been there for some time.

    I don’t think this was *always* true, but I think organizational interests of MLS are now actually interfering with the natural growth and momentum of the sport, and the effort to control now does more harm than good. I’m not sure how you address that without getting to an open pyramid.

    I, for one, don’t want MLS to die – I just want it to stop getting in the way of #1. If that requires the league to change in terms of structure, operations, even god forbid pro/rel, etc. that’s fine with me. I care about #1 above all else.

    I think this is the divide in the fanbase, frankly. And I think it comes down to whether you’re an optimist and you trust that the people currently in charge have a plan and know what they’re doing, OR, you’ve lost that trust somewhere along the way, you think these people have reached their limits and we need new blood with new ideas and that nothing should be sacred.

    • Two United Fans ↗️

      Very well put. Far more succinct than the Tolstoy length piece I just wrote.

      • GabeTown

        What happened to your comment?

        • Kyle Eliason

          I’m looking at things on the back end. There aren’t any comments in the pending approval, though that might have been done. Sometimes takes the site’s cahce a bit to catch up.

    • Alex Schieferdecker

      Hold up, hold up. I agree with your summation of the missions of both organizations. But it doesn’t follow to me that they are inevitably misaligned. The mission of the German federation and the mission of the Bundesliga could be stated in the same way. Or the mission of the English federation, or French, or Swiss, etc. Are they fated to be in conflict as well?

      Conceptually, I don’t quite understand why you see #2 as being independent from #1, and not a subset of it. US Soccer’s goal is to grow the sport in the United States. The tip of that spear is the country’s premier professional league. When MLS succeeds, participation, competitiveness, visibility, national team success, etc. must necessarily follow, no?

      Concretely, I’d like to hear examples of how MLS is getting in the way of #1 at a strategic level. I don’t mean to say they don’t exist, I have a few in mind! But I don’t see those conflicts as more than operational (as opposed to strategic or tactical).

      • GabeTown

        Great response, thanks, and very fair challenges. I agree with you they don’t *have* to be inevitably misaligned. You’re right, plenty of other leagues in other countries aren’t. But I think it’s demonstrably true that missions are in conflict here, due to the specific, structural ways MLS is set up to advance & protect its own interests, and quite frankly, it all comes down to the single-entity monopoly they’ve modeled on the MLB, NBA, and NFL.

        I know there’s quite a bit of proselytizing about pro/rel, and while I don’t believe it would solve every problem, I think it’s a demonstrably better model that would also resolve most of the inherent mission conflicts. Some specific examples…

        Player Development & Transfers – Right now, the incentives for player development are completely misaligned to solely benefit the single-entity of MLS. A club / academy / institution needs open market access, the ability to unrestrictedly develop and reap transfer profits to drive the pipeline. Academies and “clubs” don’t compete with each other for talent, MLS has the right to block transfers (and frequently does), and so we end up with a falsely restricted financial structure, and some of our best young US players don’t end up with the opportunity to go abroad, develop against best competition, and evolve into more valuable national team products. In these cases, protecting the interests of MLS specifically *inhibits* US national team player pool development directly (restricted transfers) and indirectly (open market player development creating a more advanced, robust talent pipeline – specifically what the Bundesliga has invested in over the last 20 years).

        Centralized Control vs. Organic Growth & Investment – I don’t think you could’ve said this 10 years ago, but we’ve hit an inflection point with the sport’s popularity in the US that’s just stunning. We’ve got unrestricted access to the best leagues in the world (all of which tour here because they see it as an essential and untapped market), 35 and unders don’t see the sport as foreign and “other” the way older generations do/did, and we’re seeing clubs with extraordinarily passionate followings emerge in surprising places like Cincinnati. Why NOT do *everything possible* to encourage this? Why not open the market to organic growth, crowdsourcing, investment, loyalty development, etc. We can’t predict where these things are going to take hold, so let them happen naturally! I think it’s easy to make the case that MLS playing gatekeeper and deciding who’s “in” and who’s “out” is *inhibiting* natural development in this extraordinarily huge and diverse country. Open it up and let individual playing styles emerge and contribute to the melting pot! Imagine a future pipeline where Texas produces short, speedy midfielders, the southwest gives us extraordinarily tough defenders, and a plethora of tall true strikers come out of the upper midwest? It’s an over-simplification, but really could be an amazing future if we’d get out of our own way.

        Product – last, let’s talk about what matters most with MLS, the actual product on the field. The league is run by mostly ex-NFL executives who I think demonstrably do *not* understand what’s most compelling about soccer, and despite themselves, still constantly try to “Americanize” the sport. It doesn’t need it. Constant expansion has diluted the quality of play without addressing things like poor officiating, astroturf, etc. that should be essential priorities. NYCFC paid millions for Pirlo, one of the greatest midfielders to ever play the game, who when given width and space can deliver the most sublime passing on earth, and put him on the narrowest field in MLS. It’s one of so many examples of absolutely asinine decision-making in the league that all reflect how little the people in charge understand soccer. And while we’ve got attractive style of play from Atlanta, Toronto, and occasionally others, for the most part we’ve still got the same long-ball midfield chaos we’ve been seeing here for 25 years. There’s an argument to be made that a better MLS model of 10-12 D1 & D2 teams with a better calendar aligned to respect international FIFA dates, shorter playoff (if at all), and pro/rel along with more investment around officiating, broadcast, and other quality of play issues would create a much, much, much more compelling product to watch.

        Anyway, I recognize a lot of this is opinion, but I say this as someone who has tried multiple times over the years to support MLS, dating back to the 90s. I *want* a domestic league here that’s top 5 in the world. We’re being told there’s only one way to get it by people who are invested in there being only one way to get it. And I think it’s demonstrable that they’re wrong, and worse than that, I think they may not have any idea what they’re doing. We need to stop listening to them and start listening to the people telling us there can be a better way.

        Thanks for engaging, thoughts welcomed.

      • GabeTown

        Hey Alex, apologies, wrote like a 10-paragraph response that Disqus blasted into the ether somehow. It was thoughtful, it was smart, it was convincing! I will try to recreate it another day.

  • Two United Fans ↗️

    It’s not surprising to me that the old hands of US Soccer are going for this “pump the brakes” piece. Change is scary and disruptive. Unfortunately the premise this piece begins with is flawed.

    “The Yanks’ elimination came through an extraordinarily absurd series of events”

    This is the worst kind of exceptionalism bias who’s thesis is based on the perceived inferiority of smaller countries. “The little guys won! Nobody could have predicted that! The US’ lack of qualification wasn’t as bad as we think it was. If one of these little teams had just played the way we think they should have, we’d have gone through!”

    Thankfully Alex himself provides the rebuttal:

    >But there’s no such evidence of a similar drought now, with a wave of impressive young players maturing both domestically and abroad.

    >Meanwhile the nation’s flagship domestic league, Major League Soccer, is seeing growing attendance numbers, increasing investment, and improving quality.

    In an environment where the domestic league is flourishing and there is a pool of talented young players, the US failed to qualify for the World Cup. Not because of series of absurd events, but because other countries excelled at putting out competitive teams that challenged the established powerhouses. These minnows who Alex confines to “absurd” results pulled together and produced teams that packed a mean punch. Their players were motivated, they huffed and puffed towards a common goal and defied the status quo.

    Meanwhile the United States managed to under perform to a shocking degree. Why?

    >The fact that they weren’t is a damning indictment of U.S. Soccer… in 2007-2012, when these players were graduating from youth to senior ranks and failed to progress.

    Jurgen Klinsmann took over as the technical director for the USSF in 2011. Some credit for turning around the development of players has to lie on his shoulders.

    Unfortunately, he constantly found himself at odds with MLS. That league’s commissioner held an ill-advised angry press conference when Jurgen dared to suggest playing in more competitive leagues was better for our best players (a view that is only controversial in USMNT circles). Then Merritt Paulson (who by the way has pushed this piece) helpfully told the world that Jurgen had lost the faith of MLS owners.

    So we found ourselves in a place where the country’s largest league was undermining its head coach/TD and the federation only managed a half-hearted defense. Stars who were being encouraged to continue to challenge themselves abroad were finding happy comfort zones in MLS. Then after results suffered (funny how that happens after the coach is undermined publicly by high level figures in the sport) Jurgen was fired.

    Then the federation hired a “bombastic” coach who made laughable claims about no players falling through the cracks and how he could learn as much about coaching soccer from Football’s Bill Belichick as Pep Guardiola. He served as a shield for the entrenched popular view of MLS and whether our players were adequately challenged there. “It’s good enough. We’re good enough. No need to go scout Danny Williams in the Championship because we got our hometown boys playing in Toronto.”

    The message from the fed from their failure to protect Jurgen to their hiring of Arena was clear: We have a god-ordained right to be at the World Cup. Our players are great just the way they are. Our comfort zone is the place we need to be in.

    That final statement is exactly what this article is proposing. Building “wildly successful new clubs and pro academy structures in major American metro areas” hasn’t got us to the World Cup and it’s not changed the clown show that is the American lower leagues. MLS’ spectacle might have increased at a surface level but its signature cup game was demolished in ratings by a regular season game played in England at Sunday morning US time.

    Let me also be clear, that I don’t blame Don Garber and the MLS owners for being protective of their league. I don’t blame Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore or the other players for having an eye for money and comfort. Those are the natural motivations they will have. I do blame the federation’s fault for not displaying the leadership and strategic coalition building needed to overcome these issues. The lack of a strong hand on the tiller has left us with a situation where what’s best for one league has been allowed to overcome what might be best for the national team and the sport.

    Let me add a quick word about the natural rebuttal here regarding how MLS players have done well for other CONCACAF nations vs USMNT players in MLS. For example both goalscorers for Panama and Costa Rica’s goalscorer have spent time in MLS or are here now. This is being used to suggest that it’s ok for the USMNT players to remain in this league (vs. leaving for Europe or other leagues abroad.)

    The issue with that argument is that it ignores some fairly important contextual factors that contribute to a player’s mentality.

    The guys born abroad are coming here to take incredibly competitive spots. Some are coming with a possible goal of getting a green card and settling here. Others want to use the league as a spring board to greater success elsewhere. That produces a lot of pressure to succeed. These guys are now in a country speaking a second or third language, with coaches and teammates who have learned the sport differently. They have to adapt to every single aspect of life (even the toilets are sometimes different when you change nations) and be far from family and friend. It takes a certain degree of mental fortitude, grit and adaptability to succeed in that situation. The moment you falter, the fans ask why a precious international spot is being wasted on you.

    For Americans on the other hand, this league is their comfort zone. Everyone speaks their language. The most adapting or changing one has to is to endure is the metric system in Canada. You’re always a short (usually domestic) flight from family and friends. Compared to non-US guys, there’s less competition for your spot on the team and if you’re a big-name NT player, you get big paychecks. The soccer media has less money invested into it and thus the league has far more control of the narrative. Thus there’s less scrutiny of player failures. Even fans are easier on you. Recently a guy in my SG asked me not to tease a visiting USMNT player about the loss to Costa Rica because “That’s our team.” (Do you think German fans will let Pulisic forget his team crashed out of the World Cup?) There’s less pressure playing here and you need less grit to get through this league as an American.

    Twellman and Lalas both pointed to how the current generation of US players are coddled, can’t handle the pressure and don’t have a winning mentality to overcome tough times. In my opinion, staying in the MLS comfort zone or coming back to it are one cause of this. I’ve heard similar arguments from English pundits who say the English refusal to challenge themselves abroad is a major cause of that nation’s mediocrity.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love this league. I love that MNUFC play in it. But I’m also cognizant of the fact that continuing to play here is hurting some of our NT players.

    >bombastic populist with dubious qualifications

    What are the qualifications to be USSF president? Which of the candidates doesn’t have qualifications that you couldn’t call into question from one angle or another? Carter has been proposed as one thanks to her work in soccer business but the blame for many of our failures lies with the malaise promoted by the institutions that employed her. She had a chance to lay out why her vision would be different from SUM’s or MLS’ but instead chose to put out a vague policy document that did little reassure us she wouldn’t be a status quo candidate.

    To me the most prescient qualification is leadership potential. Which candidate has the strongest chances of building a coalition and overcoming the biases currently present in the system? Of safeguarding the interests of the sport and NT over the interests of a NASL or MLS? Is that Martino? Solo? Wynalda? I don’t know. But then I don’t have a vote so the stakes for who I choose or whether I choose are low.

    • GabeTown

      Fantastic response, brings up so many good things. I’ve come around to the idea that there’s quite a bit of evidence the best thing for the institution of USSF might be a bomb-thrower like Wynalda. I think people are overestimating the amount of exec-level biz and financial experience required from the President position – my understanding is most of that falls under Flynn as CEO. But USSF is such an immovable Borg (there are 15 board members!) that change is only ever going to be gradual and minor, so someone unafraid to provoke might be the right thing to get it moving in a positive direction and get people to question their own existing assumptions about what’s working and what’s not.

      • BJ

        15 board members is pretty small for a organization that size, I would have thought 25 would have been a better number.

        • GabeTown

          They had 40 until I think 2004 and it was apparently unworkable. Think about the pace of decisionmaking with 15 board members when you’re organized as a non-profit. The amount of consensus-building required is enormous. Hence why I don’t think just one person can make rapid change.

          • BJ

            40 would really be a lot. If you think about creation of sub committees, 15 means almost all members are on multiple sub committees. It’s hard to get independent views with such a small group and it easier to get 2-4 people who just run everything. With 20-25 members, people can be on 1 sub committee and still be part of larger group. With 15 you will have e to be on 2-3 committees with the same people who are in larger group, and might as well just let the people who run things run things, because you are shuttled from meeting to meeting and not able to keep focused on a single 1-2 items.