Carlos Cordeiro, USSF presidential candidate, answers ESPN's questions
Ahead of the United States Soccer Federation presidential election on Feb. 10, ESPN FC asked the eight candidates running to succeed Sunil Gulati to address a series of questions in 150 or fewer words per answer.
Here is what Carlos Cordeiro had to say.
The U.S. men have not only failed to qualify for the World Cup, but also the last two Olympics. What needs to be done to get the program back on track?
As I describe in my detailed plan on my website, U.S. Soccer needs to change. In the short term, we need a new technical department run by general managers for our men's and women's programs -- akin to athletic directors at universities, reporting to the CEO of U.S. Soccer -- responsible for recruiting, selecting and managing all national team coaches, curriculum and player development at all levels. This way, soccer operations would be managed by soccer experts that we can hold accountable. Over the long term, we have to improve the pipeline for the next generation of players. As a membership-driven federation, we should help our grassroots members succeed by providing structure and financial support and helping to develop soccer curriculum. The new technical department that I'm proposing would help make sure our players have the best training possible, more and better scouting and closer coordination between national teams and club teams.
What makes you qualified to run an organization with 170 full-time employees and an annual budget of around $100 million?
The position of president is not about kicking the ball, coaching a team or serving as CEO. It's about who has the vision to grow the game at all levels and make soccer the preeminent sport in America, the independence to serve all members fairly, the business experience of leading and transforming large organizations and a record of service and commitment to our federation. I'm the only candidate for president of U.S. Soccer with more than 30 years of international business expertise. I have successfully managed multibillion-dollar projects, advised governments around the world and served as a director on the board of one of the world's largest, most successful companies. I know how to recruit talent and build teams, work collaboratively with all stakeholders, establish trust, forge consensus and coalitions and grow businesses in new and competitive markets, which is exactly what U.S. Soccer needs right now.
To what extent are outside sources financing your campaign and who is contributing?
I am self-funding my entire campaign. I have not accepted -- and will not accept -- any funds from any other person or organization. U.S. Soccer deserves a president who has no conflicts of interest and who is beholden to no one. I'm running my campaign just as I've conducted myself as an unpaid volunteer at USSF for the past decade and how I would serve as USSF President: With complete independence and dedicated to serving all members fairly.
During his time as president, Sunil Gulati operated in more of an executive/hands-on role. The USSF Board of Directors is moving to make the position more of a chairperson role with less power. Do you agree with this move?
In fact, as vice president of USSF, I've played a leading role in this effort to clarify the role of president. The president of U.S. Soccer is a non-executive role, and this is consistent with our bylaws and all national governing bodies for sports in the United States. I see the role as similar to that of a chairman of the board of directors, who works collaboratively to bring all stakeholders together around common goals. One of my top priorities is open, inclusive, transparent leadership. Rather than the president making decisions unilaterally, our board should play a greater role overseeing federation activities. A new membership department should improve communication and coordination with our members. The CEO and legal counsel -- not the president -- should lead CBA negotiations. We also need to make diversity and equality a priority across our federation, including a full-time, paid director of diversity and inclusion.
What can the USSF do to help create more Christian Pulisics? What needs to change on the youth development side and is it a problem if more players follow his lead?
We have extraordinary athletes, including Christian, and we should be doing everything we can to nurture the next generation of players, especially at the grassroots. We need to broaden our base by bringing more young people from diverse communities into our ranks and focus on youth soccer less as a business and more as a way to develop talent on the field. If elected, I'll also work to: invest more resources in youth soccer, including scholarships and grants, so that more young people -- especially in cities and underserved and diverse communities -- can afford to play; increase subsidies for coaches and coach education programs; and increase support for the grassroots volunteers who help identify and develop players at the youngest ages. Over time, fewer American athletes will be drawn to compete abroad as we create even stronger clubs and leagues right here in the United States.
How would you reform the youth system so that the costs to families, which often run into several thousand dollars annually, isn't so prohibitive?
It's heartbreaking that many young boys and girls are not able to play the sport they love because their families can't afford the high cost. Unfortunately, the honest truth is that "pay to play" will never go away entirely; it will always cost money to pay referees and coaches, rent fields, buy equipment and run tournaments. There are, however, steps we can take to reduce the costs and make soccer more affordable. As I say above, we should invest more in scholarships and grants so that more young people -- especially in cities and underserved and diverse communities -- can afford to play. The USSF could also help local organizations get better at raising funds to defray costs. In addition, we should improve the quality of training so players and families don't have to spend so much money and time traveling and increase subsidies for coaches and coach education programs.
There is a perception in some circles that many of the country's best athletes leave soccer for other sports. What ideas do you have for ensuring that more stick with it?
The challenge of players leaving for other sports isn't unique to soccer. In their teenage years, many athletes opt to pursue other sports or activities as their interests develop and change. In soccer, we're fortunate to have many incredible young athletes; there's no shortage of talent. That said, we can always do more to keep our best athletes from leaving for other sports. For young athletes whose families are discouraged by the high cost of "pay for play," we can -- as I describe above -- take steps to make soccer more affordable. For young athletes turned off and burned out when the spirit of competition seems to get out of control, we have to remember to make soccer fun. As women and men who played soccer as youth become parents, we should keep them involved as coaches with training that enhances coaching, reduces costs and improves player development.
What are your thoughts on promotion/relegation? Do you think it's viable given that MLS is against it?
I regret that I'm not able to comment on this issue at this time because, as vice president, I am a sitting officer of the federation and this is a matter pending in arbitration.
What other changes would you make to the pro game in the U.S. to foster growth and interest?
The phenomenal growth of professional leagues -- including bringing a new generation of fans into stadiums -- is something we can all be proud of. Major League Soccer and USL are strong and continue to expand. Part of growing the game involves increasing USSF support for professional leagues and working together to develop even stronger players, coaches and referees to keep pace with this growth. Perhaps the greatest opportunity to grow the pro game is the National Women's Soccer League. The USSF has been the single largest supporter of the NWSL in its first five years and, if elected, I will work to sustain this critical funding. We need to work with the NWSL to grow the number of teams, bring in additional substantial long-term investors as partners and owners and raise the standards of the league so they mirror the best leagues in the world -- women's or men's.
Do you think the domestic game should change its calendar to match that of the international game?
I don't believe that the calendar of the domestic game is a matter for the president of U.S. Soccer to comment on or decide; it's a matter for the professional leagues to decide.
Gulati had considerable power over how national team coaches were selected. In the future, how should these decisions get made and who should have the final say?
This is an important part of clarifying the role of the president. As I describe above, I support the creation of a new technical department run by new general managers for our men's and women's programs -- akin to athletic directors at universities, reporting to the CEO of U.S. Soccer -- responsible for recruiting, selecting and managing all national team coaches, curriculum and player development at all levels. This way, soccer operations would be managed by soccer experts that we can hold accountable. In addition, a stronger commitment to diversity and inclusion across the Federation must also include a commitment to greater diversity among coaches at all levels. The NFL, for instance, has the so-called "Rooney Rule," requiring teams to interview minority candidates for coaching positions. If elected, I would encourage USSF to adopt a similar policy for all our national teams.
The USSF has a tightly coupled business relationship with Soccer United Marketing and MLS. How big is the SUM/MLS/USSF conflict of interest here and what, if anything, should be done to address it?
The unique ownership of SUM clearly creates conflicts that need to be addressed more completely. The next president should have no conflicts of interest with SUM, MLS or with any other party seeking U.S. Soccer marketing rights. I have also proposed a new board-level commercial committee to be chaired by one of our independent board directors to oversee any future negotiations in this area. This arrangement impacts all USSF members, including our national team players and the grassroots; the more revenues we receive from the properties SUM sells, the more resources we have to invest in our sport, including players. U.S. Soccer is a very valuable brand with great growth potential, and we need to make sure we're doing everything we can to maximize the value of our brand and properties to help generate the funds we need to invest in our teams and sport.
FIFA training compensation and solidarity payments mandate professional clubs to reimburse a player's youth teams for development costs. The system is not being enforced in the U.S.; should it be and, if so, how should this be done?
I regret that I'm not able to comment on this issue at this time because, as vice president, I am a sitting officer of the federation and this matter is subject to ongoing litigation and is covered by a federal consent decree order.
How would you ensure that the men's and women's national teams get equal pay?
I've provided an in-depth answer to this question in my responses to the Athlete Council. In short, I'm a strong supporter of greater equality, diversity and inclusion throughout U.S. Soccer, and we clearly need to work toward equal pay for the national teams. I believe that where existing agreements are unfair, adjustments should be made immediately. To ensure equal pay going forward, we need to be open to new paradigms while recognizing the specific needs and desires of the WNT and MNT. There are many ways to achieve this; the key is establishing the right process. We also need to address bonus compensation. Beyond player salaries, my platform calls for equal resources for our women's program, from the coaching staff to the training facilities to the travel accommodations. We don't need to wait for CBA negotiations to make these changes; we can start now. It's the right thing to do.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.