Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never heard of Steve Gans. While scrolling through Twitter I saw an article saying that Gans will challenge Sunil Gulati for the presidency of U.S. Soccer.
I was immediately on board, and want Gans at the head of U.S. Soccer. This decision was not based about Gans’ résumé, which, at that point, I knew nothing about. Instead, it was almost entirely about Gulati.
Gulati has been the president of U.S. Soccer since 2006, and during his tenure the U.S. has reached new heights in the soccer world. The United States Women’s National Team reclaimed the World Cup. There are now 32 top-tier professional teams, 22 in MLS and 10 in NWSL, as well as another 38 in USL and NASL. Gulati is also overseeing the process of getting the World Cup back to the U.S.
But also under Gulati, the USMNT could miss the World Cup for the first time in 31 years. The Yanks have failed to qualify for the Olympics, halting the development of youngsters. Jürgen Klinsmann was brought in to save American soccer, but the Klinsmann plan ended in a huge disappointment.
The failure of the U.S. Men’s National Team has left the women’s game in a hole because of pay, exacerbating a disparity in compensation despite a higher rate of success on the women’s side — a disparity felt even more keenly at the club level, at which players are retiring from the game in their prime years at an alarming rate. Having to fix problems with the men’s team takes away time and energy that could be spent figuring out how to bridge the gap that exists between the men and women. And the youth programs in even worse shape. MLS has been doing a good job with the academy programs, but even these players are choosing colleges over MLS.
U.S. Soccer has become stagnant, and it is time for a change. Will Gans be a better option than Gulati? Only time will tell, but the status quo needs to change. The soccer being played by both the men’s and women’s teams has been too poor. Klinsmann and Bruce Arena have combined to put qualification in jeopardy. Jill Ellis struggles to play players in their natural positions. And younger players are struggling to get up through the ranks.
The old saying “better the devil you know than the devil you don't” does not fit in the case of Gulati and Gans. Gans is a mystery in how he will affect soccer in this country, but, at this stage, there is truly only one direction to go. Up.