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Comparing the Eight U.S. Presidential Candidates’ Platforms and Backgrounds

A deep look at each candidate and a comparison of their platforms.

SOCCER: OCT 06 USA v Panama Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After the United States Men’s National Team lost to Trinidad & Tobago, thus failing to qualify for the FIFA 2018 World Cup, the soccer world in the U.S. has gone berserk. Some people were calling for complete makeovers, while others were saying that there only needed to be small changes. Media was calling for U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati to resign immediately and for Bruce Arena to be fired before then, and while Arena did not last long after the loss, Gulati repeatedly said he was going to run for re-election again.

Seemingly everybody in the U.S. had opinions on what the USSF had to do, and few of these ideas agreed with each other. However, the one thing that everybody did agree with was that there needed to be change.

What needed to change and how to get the country from its current state to becoming a soccer country is a highly debated topic leading to 10 individuals campaigning to become the next U.S. Soccer president. Gulati dropped out of the race, saying he will not seek a fourth term, and Paul Lapointe failed to advance to the last stage, leaving eight candidates vying to become the next president.

The entire process of how to become a candidate was long and had many stipulations. First, in order to run for the unpaid position, candidates need to be U.S. citizens. Each potential candidate then had to declare that they were running and send in at least three letters of recommendation by Dec. 12. They also had to pass a background check.

U.S. Soccer holds its annual meetings on Feb. 8-11 at the Renaissance Orlando at Sea World. The voting is to take place on the Feb. 10. So, who is even voting? That part can get a little confusing, so here is a complete breakdown of it. In short, members of the professional, youth, and adult soccer leagues, and elected athletes all vote.

Who are the eight candidates receiving votes? Let’s meet them below:

Paul Caligiuri

Bio: It’s ironic that Trinidad eliminated the U.S. from the World Cup last year when 29 years ago it was Caligiuri’s goal against Trinidad that put the Yanks in the biggest sporting event in the world for the first time in 40 years. Now 53, Caligiuri started his playing career at UCLA. In his junior year, the two-time All-American captained UCLA to an NCAA championship. After graduating, Caliguiri played one year in the Western Soccer Alliance, earning MVP honors and U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year, before taking his skills abroad.

The defensive midfielder signed for Hamburger SV and spent the next 10 years in Germany. Caliguiri came home for the inaugural MLS season, where he spent the rest of his professional career. Caliguiri played 133 club games, finding the back of the net four times and adding three assists.

The California native is most remembered for “The Shot Heard Round the World.” It was this game-winning goal back on Nov. 19, 1989 that helped the U.S. get into the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy.

After retiring from soccer, the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame member has taken up coaching. He started at the college level with both the men’s and women’s teams at Cal Poly-Pomona before taking the reins of Orange County FC in the NPSL.

Platform: There aren’t many details of Caligiuri’s platform, but he has stated that he wants there to be some form of promotion/relegation. Not surprisingly, after spending years as a youth coach, he also wants to improve the youth system in America. He will create different committees that will be assigned to youth programs, and aims to completely reform the Developmental Academy. Part of that reform is to merge the Olympic Development Program and U.S. club soccer together. Caligiuri has also said that his goal is for the women to defend their World Cup title in 2019 and for the men to win it in 2022.

Kathy Carter

Bio: Carter is the current president of Soccer United Management (SUM), which is “the preeminent soccer company in North America, exclusively offering access to integrated marketing partnerships with properties such as Major League Soccer, United States Soccer Federation, the Mexican National Team, and more.” In other words, she is in charge of the marketing side for MLS.

Carter is a former high school All-American and college soccer player. After college she tried to continue to play soccer, but when that never took off she joined the executive side of the sport. 1993 was the first big year for her, as Carter served on the World Cup Organizing Committee. After the 1994 World Cup, Carter became a founding member of MLS and has stuck with the league ever since. From its inauguration until 1999, Carter held the role of vice president of corporate marketing for MLS, and in 2003 joined SUM.

The only female candidate, Carter has 25 years of experience on the business side of soccer. After Gulati stated that he would not be running for re-election, Carter threw her hat into the ring. Both Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber reportedly — but that’s unconfirmed — urged Carter to run and are both backing her in the race.

Platform: There are many aspects that Carter will keep the same if given the job. Her focus will be on the 2026 World Cup bid and bringing the international game to the States.

A large part of her platform is equality. She believes that a female president will help the women’s game and wants for every American, regardless of social status, race, ethnicity, or gender, to have the opportunity to play soccer and be treated fairly.

However, her biggest asset that she brings is her history and ability as an executive. She is a great business mind and proven executive. If elected, Carter will limit her own power and will create a CEO position, which she has stated would be Dan Flynn. Carter will hire soccer experts to improve the technical side, while she will focus on the business side.

She also says that she wants to address pay-to-play, but doesn’t go into much more detail.

Carlos Cordeiro

Bio: Cordeiro, 61, is most famous for his current role as vice president of U.S. Soccer, however this is a post he has only held since 2016. Prior to being voted in as the VP, Cordeiro served in multiple roles within U.S. Soccer. He was the treasurer since 2008 and has been the chair of U.S. Soccer’s budget committee since 2011. He is a member of the CONCACAF council, volunteered on the 2008 U.S. World Cup Bid, and he’s currently involved with the 2026 World Cup bid.

The Harvard graduate lacks the soccer knowledge of other candidates but has more than 30 years of experience on the financial side. In 1980, he started his career with Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company, then transferred to Credit Suisse First Boston in London before finally ending up with Goldman Sachs, where he spent the next 12 years.

Platform: There are both pros and cons of Cordeiro’s history in the finance sector and on the USSF Board. He has no experience in the sport apart from his executive roles, but he has stated that he will appoint a general manager to take over the technical aspects of the game. The 61-year-old also has experience with all the politics, which has its advantages and disadvantages within itself. The biggest disadvantage for him is going to be how he will differ from Gulati when Cordeiro has been his No. 2 for the better part of two years.

On how he will differ from Gulati, Cordeiro said: “We can’t have more of the same. I think when we talk about change, ultimately, we need to ensure that we have very open, inclusive, transparent leadership if we are to achieve the growth we want. It can’t be about one person making every single decision. It can’t be an organization that focuses on only some members...I’ve worked very hard to get the board more engaged, and not just have it there as a rubber stamp — that may be too strong a word — but just to ratify things. We need a board who are engaged. That means they’re deeply involved in strategy, making critical decisions about expenditures. Those boards are, by and large, the best boards to have.”

Steve Gans

Bio: Gans’ background is unlike any other candidate. He is the only person running that has a history on the business side as well as soccer experience. If that’s not enough, he is the only candidate not to declare his intentions to run for president before the U.S. lost to Trinidad.

The 57-year-old went to Cornell University, then Brandeis University where he got his B.A., and played collegiate soccer at both schools. Afterwards, he played in the indoor league MISL for the Baltimore Blast. In addition to playing, he worked as an executive with the Blast.

His soccer background does not stop there, though. Gans has over 25 years of soccer experience, which includes being a member of the board to bring the World Cup to the U.S. in 1994, part of the board of directors for the Development Academy team FC Bolts Celtic, and represented youth and professional teams domestically and in England.

Although he has a solid amount of soccer knowledge and experience, Gans is truly a lawyer by trade. He went to the Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School and passed the Massachusetts bar and is currently a partner in the Boston law firm Prince Lobel Tye LLP. He also held the roles of chief operating officer and general counsel for New England Mobile Book Fair, Inc.

“I’ve been a player, I’ve been a front-office executive, I’ve been an adviser, whether consulting business or as an attorney, both on management side and playing side,” said Gans. “I’ve represented players, represented management, represented clubs. Youth, I’ve done all of that, too, from being a parent and a coach, but also counseling youth clubs on a variety of legal and structural issues.”

Platform: Gans has a full on 20-point platform on his website. Here is a summary of each point:

  1. Create a soccer summit within 60 days.
  2. Top-down evaluation of employees.
  3. “Halt and institute a moratorium on the current U.S. Soccer plan to centralize the State Referee Administrator responsibilities.”
  4. Hold president position accountable.
  5. Within 60 days meet leaders and evaluate youth programs.
  6. Increase role of Athlete Council.
  7. “Institute an atmosphere on the Youth Council Technical Working Group that welcomes and encourages feedback.”
  8. Improve domestic leagues.
  9. Improve youth development system to become leading soccer nation at the international level.
  10. Ensure that the U.S. gets the 2026 World Cup bid.
  11. Ensure greater transparency and accountability.
  12. Put $130-$140 million surplus to use in youth development, field improvements, and scholarships.
  13. “Promptly and respectfully address issues raised by members of the Athletes Council and its constituents.”
  14. “Meet with national youth affiliates to evaluate whether or not to rescind the player development initiative that prevents school age children from playing with their classmates.”
  15. Partially defray the pay-to-play system.
  16. Ensure women and men have equal working conditions.
  17. Create a search committee to find the next USMNT head coach.
  18. Give Youth Council and Adult Council a voice in how to improve their programs.
  19. Top-down review and improvements on Development Academy.
  20. “Always advocate 100% for U.S. Soccer when dealing with FIFA.”

Kyle Martino

Bio: The ex-University of Virginia midfielder played collegiately from 1999-2001, scoring 17 goals and registering 21 assists. He was the ACC Player of the Year in 2001 and a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist in his sophomore and junior years. He skipped his senior season to enter MLS and was drafted eighth overall in the 2002 MLS SuperDraft by the Columbus Crew.

The Atlanta native won MLS Rookie of the Year in 2002 and went on to play 125 MLS games and scored 11 goals and provided 12 assists for the Crew and the LA Galaxy. Martino made just eight international appearances and scored once for the Yanks. His lone goal was the game winner in a 2-0 World Cup qualifier against Panama in 2005.

After his professional playing career, Martino became a commentator. He’s worked for ESPN and FOX, but today is the only American commentator covering the English Premier League for NBC Sports. Although he has stated that this is his dream job, Martino is on a hiatus to campaign.

Platform: Martino’s entire platform rests on three main pillars — Transparency, equality, and progress. Transparency is a common concern and something that many other candidates are focusing on as well.

In terms of equality, Martino will look to create an equal playing field for both the men and women, but he will look to go beyond just gender. The former national team member noticed that in South America and Europe, basketball courts have soccer goals underneath them. He believes that having a similar set up in the States will give low-income families, that cannot afford pay-to-play, a chance to play soccer. Martino wants to ensure that every child in America has an opportunity to play the sport.

Finally, Martino talks about progress. He believes that the country needs to continue to push forward on its goals and improve development. He wants to improve coaching and create training centers that are of no cost.

“I’d like to focus on progress, as it’s the sense of moving backward that I know has so much of the US soccer community feeling lost and upset,” Marino said via his website. “When a nation of more than 300 million fails to qualify for the World Cup, it’s not because of a few bad bounces on a less-than-perfect pitch; it’s because of systemic failures across all levels of the game.”

While nobody is doubting Martino’s knowledge of the sport and we know that he has done almost everything as a player, he has no history on the business side. He also wishes to make the president a paid position.

Hope Solo

Bio: Hope Solo, 36, is perhaps the most well-known candidate. She is a World Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, winner of the 2011 and 2015 FIFA World Cup Golden Glove awards, and leads all American goalkeepers in caps, wins, shutouts, and starts in U.S. history. She has represented her country at every level, starting with the U-14 age group, and is arguably the best goalkeeper in U.S. history. She has over 200 caps in 16 years as a pro and has played in the NWSL and abroad.

There are no questions about Solo’s ability on the field, but her off-field record has its ups and down. She was one of the main leaders for the players in the national team’s labor negotiations back in 2016. However, she has a history of legal issues, being arrested in 2014 and suspended by U.S. soccer for half a year in 2016 for disciplinary reasons after the women lost to Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals.

Platform: Solo was a late addition and her announcement to run came from nowhere. In a Facebook post, she told a story of why she is running, giving a personal account of the financial issues in U.S. Soccer.

“The systemic problem in U.S. Soccer starts at the youth level. Soccer has always been a middle class sport and in more recent times, has become an upper middle class sport. Some of the best clubs around the country charge each youth player between $3000-$5000 per season. I have personally witnessed young players heartbroken over the financial reality that they could no longer pursue their dream.”

Solo wants USSF to be more transparent, the focus to be on soccer instead of the business side, pay-to-pay to be addressed, and an investment in the youth system. However, her first priority will not surprisingly be to ensure there is an equal opportunity for everyone and to secure equal pay for men and women.

Michael Winograd

Bio: Winograd, 47, is a corporate attorney from New York and has a background that will help him connect the technical and business sides of the sport. He played college soccer at Lafayette College before making it as a professional in Israel. After playing he became an assistant at the University of Richmond and was a director of youth and team development for the Staten Island Vipers, and has a history of coaching in youth camps.

Winograd got his law degree in 2000 from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and since then has been practicing law in New York.

His website states: “Winograd successfully has devised and implemented case strategies, managed teams, drafted briefs, argued before state and federal judges, and negotiated settlements. He has represented some of the largest banks and companies, domestic and foreign, in high stakes cases and negotiations. In 2008, he, along with former colleagues, helped create the Legal Mentoring Program for the Harlem Education Advancement Fund (HEAF), which recently awarded Winograd and his colleagues its long-term volunteer service award.”

Platform: Winograd believes that the biggest issue in U.S. soccer is youth development and will make that his priority.

“We need to define a clear path to the national team and make sure that we are identifying kids at an early age and getting kids at an early age — good players — in front of good coaches,” Winograd said. “And that implicates identification, it implicates training, clarity of a path for the consumer — so people know what the right path is, if you have what it takes — and it also takes money.”

He also believes that there needs to be more transparency and will institute this immediately when hiring the next head coach of the men’s team. He wants to create a panel that will collaboratively decide on who will replace Bruce Arena. In addition, he stands for equal pay on the women’s side and equality for all.

Eric Wynalda

Bio: Wynalda has had a historic and memorable playing careering. He was the first American to play in the German Bundesliga, the first American to captain a European club, scored the inaugural MLS goal, is fourth on the USMNT all-time scoring list, and a three-time World Cup veteran. The striker scored 41 goals and added 21 assists in 140 club games. He also found the back of the net 34 times in 106 international caps. His 34 goals were the most in U.S. history until Landon Donovan came on to the scene.

After playing, the Hall of Famer took up coaching and has been in that role ever since. He coached amateur side Cal FC, Atlanta Silverbacks in the NASL, and UPSL team LA Wolves. When not coaching Wynalda is also an analyst with a history with ESPN and ABC, but he’s currently with FOX.

Platform: Anybody who is not a fan of Gulati will most likely support Wynalda, who is considered an “anti-Gulati” by some. He will want to change the schedule of American soccer so that it matches that of Europe and FIFA, so the MLS season would run from July to June. He does not think that the men’s team needs to completely start over and that a change in schedule will help that national team setup.

“The [problem with the] national team, in my opinion, right now, is not a talent issue,” said Wynalda. “Under no circumstances should we start believing that the players that we have — whether they play domestically or abroad — aren’t good enough. We have a very good team. We underperform, sure, but there’s mechanisms that exist within Major League Soccer that if we fix them, we immediately create a much more competitive environment for our players. We create a scenario where there’s more visibility for the league itself.”

On the women’s side he wants to completely redo the collective bargaining agreement and restructure so that they can get equal pay. He will also look to connect lower divisions to MLS and have a form of promotion and relegation. Wynalda believes that kids are being over-coached and wants to improve the youth coaching and development.

Candidate Platforms

Candidate Expand Business Side Hire Technical Director Improve Coaching Lower/ Eliminate Pay-to-Play Promotion/ Relegation Transparency Youth Development
Candidate Expand Business Side Hire Technical Director Improve Coaching Lower/ Eliminate Pay-to-Play Promotion/ Relegation Transparency Youth Development