USSF Needs Kathy Carter As President for Growth, Equality

Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation who has been called “the single most important person in the development of soccer in this country” by Major League Soccer founder Alan Rothberg, announced this week that he will not be running for re-election in February. The decision comes after the United States Men’s National Team failed to make the World Cup for the first time since 1986, despite having one of the world’s most electrifying young talents in 19-year-old Christian Pulisic. During Gulati’s time as president — which began when he ran unopposed in 2006 and continued for 12 years through single-candidate re-elections — soccer has grown immensely in the United States. However, the end of his tenure marks a time for assessing all of the changes that have yet to be made, and that can be best recognized by electing former United States Women’s National Team member and current president of Soccer United Marketing Kathy Carter as the next USSF president.

Carter — who announced that she was running for the position on Tuesday — joins seven other candidates in a race much tighter than Gulati’s single-candidate election. Out of the eight, Carter boasts one of the most impressive and unique resumes; she not only played soccer for the United States team at the highest level, but is also a former Vice-President of MLS, and worked on the business side of U.S. soccer for over two decades. In her time at SUM, she worked closely with Gulati and strengthened her influence in both the on-field and corporate elements of soccer in America. If elected, she would also be the first woman to be USSF president — all 11 others have been men.

Right now, the other candidates consist of USMNT members Eric Wynalda, Paul Caligiuri, and Kyle Martino, who — while important names in U.S. soccer — have no executive experience. Joining them is former Goldman Sachs executive and current USSF Vice-President Carlos Cordeiro, lawyers Michael Winograd and Steven Gans, and league administrator Paul Lapointe.

This election will likely be the most important in a while, as the United States are part of a shared three-country bid with Mexico and Canada to host the World Cup in 2026. If they won the bid, it would be just the second World Cup to be hosted by the United States, the first being in 1994 when Carter was on the committee responsible for bringing it to the U.S. As America’s interest in soccer grows — whether through professional teams in Europe such as FC Barcelona, the growing crop of young and promising talent headlined by Pulisic, or just by playing FIFA video games — the next president will have the best opportunity in U.S. soccer history to have a serious global presence.

While the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the USWNT has been one of the most dominant teams in the world, winning the 2015 World Cup in Canada. Equalizing wages between the USMNT and USWNT will likely be one of the biggest talking points of the upcoming election, as a federal complaint of wage discrimination following the 2015 World Cup by five USWNT players was another of Gulati’s greatest controversies as president. Carter will make the best case for equalizing the two teams, and if she were to become president she would represent the strongest voice for the USWNT.

On the field, athletes’ achievements speak for themselves, but in order to maintain successful and competitive play, strong leadership is needed. The NFL changed its commissioner to Roger Goodell in 2006 once questions about the long-term effects of brain trauma became a league crisis. In his time, he has implemented rule changes and head-trauma research to try to protect his players, and despite mixed results and waning ratings, it was enough to earn him another five-year deal inked earlier this week that could be worth up to $200 million. In the NBA, president Adam Silver has made it a priority to increase basketball’s global presence; under his guidance basketball now only trails soccer in global popularity, and the NBA has the most European players in league history. February’s election will impact the course of the USSF for many years to come, and Kathy Carter is the best choice for the job.