Where do the USSF Presidential Candidates Stand on Women’s Soccer?


Note: After this piece was published the US Soccer Athlete Council posted surveys taken by each of the candidates. Some of the answers touch on women’s soccer more deeply than their campaign sites. Their answers can be found here.

The race for the next USSF president has been about men’s soccer. The fate of the USMNT has been at the front and center of the race since the team failed to qualify for the 2018 Men’s World Cup. 

But the USSF president is not president of men’s soccer in the US. They aren’t MLS’s commissioner able to change the league to a different time table nor able to bend the league to their will on the issue of pro/rel or pay. 

No, the role of the president of USSF is part public face, part chairperson of the board, and part handling of unique challenges that they face while in the role. Their duties, official or not, do not include directly overseeing any one league. And when they have tried in the past to meddle, usually the outcry is deafening. 

Of the current crop of candidates for USSF President – Paul Caligiuri, Kathy Carter, Carlos Cordeiro, Steve Gans, Kyle Martino, Hope Solo, Michael Winograd, and Eric Wynalda – there are clearly those who have thought deeply about the issues facing women’s soccer. The platforms and websites through which they are disseminated show a split in just how much stock each candidate puts in needing a strong women’s soccer platform. 

A few notes before I break down each platform. I could not find a campaign website for Paul Caligiuri. While I could find a website for Eric Wynalda there was no platform I could find listed, just some links to interviews and a large bio page. 

Paul Caligiuri – Former MNT player – No website found

I could not find a website or a full platform for Paul Caligiuri but I was able to find an open letter he wrote to USSF detailing his concern over the voting disparities between MLS and NWSL. He also brings up the lack of an NWSL commissioner at the end of the letter. 

The points brought up by Caligiuri are important ones. The lack of the NWSL commissioner has boggled the minds of most of the NWSL media for the better part of the time the league has been without one. Adding to that the voting disparity that he brings up solidifies a strong message of support for women’s soccer in the country.

Without a full platform to look at, it is hard to know what Caligiuri sees overall as a vision for USSF. But the points outlined here are some of the stronger views a candidate has come out with. 

Kathy Carter – President of Soccer United Marketing – Website Here

No one who votes for USSF President would be voting for Kathy Carter as a candidate to bring mass change to US Soccer. She is running as and is best viewed in the context of the “keep the ship steady, fix in small amounts what needs to be fixed, and let the system that is in place work as it has been” candidate.

What worries me most as I look at Carter’s platform and website is the shockingly sparse focus on women’s soccer. Going so far as to call the the 2026 FIFA World Cup “the most important event on the planet” along the way without mentioning the USWNT. She speaks to how important it would be to elect the first female president of USSF while doing shockingly little to show an understanding of any women’s soccer related issues.

The closest she gets is mentioning the USWNT at the start of her open letter.

And then again in 2011. The U.S. Women’s National Team – down 2-1 to Brazil, in the 122nd minute. Is it over? The call – “Rapinoe gets the cross in… Abby Wambach has saved the USA!!!”

Carlos Cordeiro – USSF Vice President – Website Here

After Caligiuri and Carter it is a refreshing change of pace to look at Cordeiro’s platform.

Not only does he have a platform that is comprehensive, he has a section titled “Develop World-Class National Teams” that focuses as much, maybe even a bit more, on the USWNT as it does on the USMNT.

Develop World-Class National Teams

The strength of our Women’s National Team and the new talent coming up the ranks of both the men’s and women’s programs show that U.S. Soccer can deliver excellence.  But disappointing results at several levels—including the heartbreaking failures of the Women’s National Team to win a medal in the Rio Olympics and the Men’s National Team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup—have revealed real problems that need to be addressed.

It’s time to Aim Higher. To make sure that our women can defend their World Cup championship in 2019, ensure that our men return to the World Cup in 2022 and that both our men’s and women’s teams achieve the highest level of excellence in 2026 and 2027 and beyond—Mission 26/27—we must align all levels of U.S. Soccer operations.  Specifically, we must:

  • Invest more resources in player development and world-class coaches, training facilities and infrastructure consistent with the highest competition, as well as provide additional support for all National Team athletes—male and female, Youth, Paralympians and Futsal, beach soccer, Power, deaf and amputee athletes;
  • Create a new Technical Department—run by new General Managers for our Men’s and Women’s programs and reporting to the CEO of U.S. Soccer—responsible for recruiting, selecting and managing all National Team coaches so that soccer experts run soccer operations;
  • Increase resources and investment in the women’s program—including working toward equal pay—so that our women have the best technical and training support, are no longer forced to play on artificial turf and have greater representation at all levels of Federation decision-making, because supporting our women’s teams is not charity; women deserve to be treated equally and investing in our women’s teams is one of the best ways to grow the sport; and,
  • Compete and excel on our home soil by winning our bids to co-host the Men’s World Cup with Canada and Mexico in 2026 and host the Women’s World Cup in 2027.

The section on investment reads like the answers to 100 pieces written about the inequalities the USWNT faces. Artificial turf has long been an issue that the USWNT has fought against playing on and has long been forced to keep playing on. By very clearly stating that the USWNT is “not charity,” he is going to win over some women’s soccer fans on the spot.

The only area Cordeiro doesn’t venture in to is the NWSL. While that is not so much a strike against him, he will need to have some thoughts on the young league if he is to become USSF President.

Steve Gans – Lawyer – Website Here

Gans lays out a laundry list of issues he has with the current USSF president, Sunil Gulati, including a shot about the bad PR created;

Mismanaging the Women’s National Team pay equity issue, creating much bad will, and U.S. Soccer wound-up on 60 Minutes in a bad light;

Gans goes on to, in his Reform section, call for an review of much of the USWNT structure, and a desire to “make even the working conditions” between the two national teams.

I will immediately make even the working conditions for Women’s National Team players. The WNT will thereafter play on artificial turf only as rarely as does the Men’s National Team, and will in all other ways enjoy equal working conditions. A task force made up of key personnel in the soccer community will be formed to address the disparities in the women’s game. This would include: WNT training and facility needs, compensation review and recommendations at the WNT level, Director of Coaching and other coaching opportunities at the national youth team level and competitive club level, issues specific to the girls (youth) and women’s game, and the funding of the NWSL and how U.S. Soccer can better support it. There will be specific NWSL focus on how we can increase the chance for girls to aspire to an actual career as a soccer player or coach.

Gans seems to say more or less the right things here, but he seems to leave out the NWSL and women’s soccer when talking earlier in his platform. 

A soccer nation cannot be great and fully successful if it does not have a robust professional league and professional landscape. I will throw great support behind our professional soccer leagues. I will meet individually with each of the pro leagues, including MLS, NASL, and USL, in an effort to find common ground, and areas of mutual cooperation. 

Leaving the NWSL out of this section says more, to me at least, than a section later under Reform. 

Kyle Martino – Former MNT player – Website Here

Details are sparse on this site. While I do commend Martino for setting the bar higher for the women than the men when coming to his personal bar as president,

As players, coaches, and fans, we deserve better than this, and I will stake my presidency on my ability to deliver. Our challenge is to maintain the Womens’ team’s tradition of success while turning around the Men’s team’s recent struggles.  If our Men’s National Team fails to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, I will do the right thing and step aside. (I will do the same if we miss the quarterfinals in 2026.) Likewise for the Women, but with a higher standard: the semifinal round in all international tournaments from 2023 on. 

I do not get a sense reading his platform, or the interviews he linked to, that his ideas on women’s soccer are fully baked yet. He speaks a lot, as do many candidates, without understanding the issues women’s soccer faces. To him, as many, it seems secondary at times.

To be fair he does state that his “Progress Plan” will come in the following weeks. When this plan comes out I will update with any women’s soccer detailing.

Hope Solo – Former USWNT player – Website Here

Hope Solo is an incredibly difficult candidate to talk about in terms of women’s soccer.

On one hand her disagreements with USSF have left more than just a bad taste in people’s mouths, not to mention her legal difficulties. On the other hand she is the only candidate I have any confidence could name 20 non USWNT-paid NWSL players.

Solo’s credentials in women’s soccer are written more in World Cup and Olympic medals, of being a pro women’s soccer player, than they are detailed on her website. She is the only candidate in the bunch to play as a USWNT player and a pro women’s soccer player. And yet her platform on her site is simple, if not maddeningly so.

Become The Global Leader in Equality and Women’s Issues

• Achieve Equal Pay for the USWNT and all women in the USSF workplace

• Push for the inclusion of women at all levels of the USSF executive and organizational hierarchy

• Eliminate sexism and discrimination

Before Solo was running for USSF president, back during her playing days in the NWSL, she penned a blog post about the ways the league needed to be fixed that fits in nicely with what candidate Solo has said. But we’ve yet to see details of how she might achieve any of her stated goals.

Michael Winograd – Former College Soccer Player, Lawyer – Website Here

Winograd’s statement on women’s soccer is strongly worded.

Equal Treatment for Women’s Soccer

Women’s soccer must be treated equally. Full stop. Forcing the US Women’s National Team to play on substandard fields, travel under sub-standard conditions, or accept lower pay is absolutely unacceptable. Arguments to the contrary based on revenue flow are not only factually misleading, but they ignore and contradict the mission and spirit of US Soccer. What’s more, the budgetary increase necessary to provide equality is only a fraction of the current total spend on our National Teams.

I have to give Winograd credit for slapping down a common trope used to discredit the women’s side, “Arguments to the contrary based on revenue flow are not only factually misleading, but they ignore and contradict the mission and spirit of US Soccer.” Here he does show an admirable willingness to target a commonly used argument from men’s soccer fans.

Winograd, like others, does ignore the NWSL but with only 3 points to his platform it is maybe more understandable.

Eric Wynalda – Former MNT Player – Website Here

Wynalda’s website is styled more about him personally than what he plans to do for USSF and those under its umbrella.

There is an “About Eric” tab at the top but no where on the site is even the barest platform for any soccer, let alone women’s.

He has a series of videos up, one of which he does talk about women’s soccer, that spends 1:50 on the subject.

After reading all of the candidates platforms and doing my best to get a sense of what each would do in terms of women’s soccer, I believe a few things are true.

1) The candidates for USSF President do more or less agree on the aspects of women’s soccer that need to be addressed, which I think most reasonable women’s soccer supporters would agree with as issues.

2) Nearly every candidate talks about soccer and then women’s soccer in a way that makes their rhetoric around equality a little less believable.

3) Ideas and simple statements are a lot easier to put up than details. Details mean others can hold those details over your head later on after all.

4) NWSL who? Nearly everyone has forgotten to at least mention the pro league.

5) It feels like they all got the same answer to a question asked by their sports science teacher and each changed the answer to it a little to make sure they didn’t get failed for turning in the same work.

With 8 people in the race for USSF president, some legit contenders and some fringe candidates there to try to shake up the system, it will be a very interesting few weeks until the election.

It seems that each candidate has a unique challenge when it comes to women’s soccer and the election.

Solo has the women’s soccer experience, but it’s unknown if she can get out of her own way enough to get elected, or if she would excel at the job if she were. Wynalda seems more interested in selling how good of an interview he is than running for the job.  Carter speaks about the power of electing a woman without speaking about the power of women’s soccer on top of the SUM connection.  Cordeiro’s platform is well done but he doesn’t tend to get spoken about in the same breath as some of the others.  Caligiuri, Gans, Martino, and Winograd all have gaps or rather short statements on women’s soccer in their platforms.

I hope each candidate will put out more details, or any in some cases, about their vision for the future of women’s soccer in the US. There is work to be done even with all the success that the women have had in the past.

While the USMNT not making the Men’s World Cup in Russia this summer is an issue that must be addressed, it can’t suck all the air out of the room less the whole house of cards comes down around our ears.

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