NEW LEADERSHIP AT US SOCCER
It is needless to say that the US Soccer Federation (USSF) is confronting another major crisis since it has been living in a constant state of crisis for a long time. As Grant Wahl put it so elegantly “The culture of the U.S. Soccer Federation has long been described as clubby and insular, resistant to change, quick to excommunicate anyone who rocks the boat (as Michelle Akers, Hope Solo, Eric Wynalda and many others) and too slow to welcome black Americans or Latinos”. To compile the problem for the past two years “The Federation went full speed ahead with its business relationship with Soccer United Marketing, owned by Major Soccer League (MLS) owners, which has raised serious questions over conflicts of interest. And the lawsuits against U.S. Soccer kept multiplying. The Federation is now being sued by the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) players for gender discrimination; by Hope Solo in a separate case; by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, a charity; by the NASL; by Relevent Sports” and by other individuals.
Carlos Cordeiro, an “insipid” Harvard graduated sports executive with very little (or none) experience in practical soccer affairs, which served first as VP and then was elected to the Presidency of the Federation to prolong the leadership of charismatic and controversial former USSF last “tsar” Sunil Gulati. Cordeiro was elected in 2018 practically by default and fail to make the urgent changes in direction and leadership that Federation needs desperately. He ended up mismanaging the USSF legal battle with the USWNT and resigned to the post. Give the impression that he took the easy stance of escaping the problem rather that to find energy and ideas to solve it.
As a consequence of such resignation the U.S. Soccer Federation Board has turned to North Carolina FC (NCFC) Youth-affiliated individuals to fill massively important positions. In addition to the naming Cynthia (Cindy) Parlow Cone Cone as Interim President, USSF designated Will Wilson as its new CEO and Secretary General.
Cindy Parlow is a former USSF Women’s National team midfielder and soccer coach with a strong personality. She has the difficult job of trying to resolve the Federation ongoing Equal Pay Act lawsuit with the women’s national team before it goes to trial and to reorganize, or at least to start the process of reorganization, of the different modules of the Federation.
Will Wilson, a seasoned industry veteran with experience at MLS and the NFL most recently worked as an Executive Vice President at global sports agency Wasserman. Additionally, Wilson served on the NCFC Youth Board of Directors, also chairing the Alliances and Collaborations Committee.
The new USSF leadership already announced significant cuts in youth developing programs, which in our view were not successful or beneficial by any means. The important issue here is not to just simply scaling down programs, it is also to implement useful alternatives. We must sit there and watch how those changes- if any- may benefit soccer in the US. If good things happened, we will welcome them; if not, sorry, we are well accustom to suffer.
The million-dollar question remains the usual: Is this leadership adjustment just a “cosmetic change” keeping business the same as before or we will see significant improvements? To begin with, this move gives more control and power to the MLS, a curious pro league very different of all the other FIFA Professional National Leagues that does well financially but weakly in terms of soccer quality and development.
In the meantime, we, in South Florida, will continue working on the trenches developing local players, clubs, teams and leagues, independently and without support from anybody, as it has been the norm for decades.
Personally I wish Cindy good fortune. I share with her my strong involvement in the prevention and management of concussions in soccer, a serious condition affecting a myriad of soccer players thorough the world, most of which still go unnoticed/unreported.
We have the terror of COVID-19, and now the USSF ultimate crisis. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?
Dr. JC Meeroff
Dr. JC Meeroff