By Michael Lewis
ORLANDO — Carlos Cordeiro, who claimed he was not part of the establishment, was elected president on the third ballot of the U.S. Soccer Federation at the organization’s Annual General Meeting Saturday morning.
Cordeiro, the organization’s vice president, succeeds Sunil Gulati, who decided not to run for an unprecedented fourth term after the U.S. men failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
A former executive at Goldman Sachs, Cordeiro earned 68.6 percent of the vote.
Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter, who had the backing of the Pro Council and Major League Soccer, finished second (10.6 percent) after an encouraging start. Kyle Martino (10.6) was third, Eric Wynalda (8.9) fourth and Hope Solo (1.4).
Cordeiro used some unusual strategy in the election, sometimes keeping a low profile and despite being a member of the USSF board for the past 11 years, claimed he was a change candidate. Apparently, enough voters in the National Council was impressed with his ideas.
In a quick acceptance speech, Cordeiro said he was overwhelmed by the result.
“Just a few thanks to those of you who supported me today,” he said. “Thank you very, very much. It is incredibly humbling. I want to thank all of the candidates for a spirited campaign. All of you, thank you.”
There was applause.
“I would like to thank Sunil and our board for their tireless service; Sunil for introducing me to the game 10 or 11 years ago,” Cordeiro continued. “For those of you who didn’t vote for me, I’m going to work to earn your trust and support over the next four years. I promise you I’m going to work together with all of you to bring us together as one united soccer community. Let’s all leave this room today with that in mind. Thank you very, very much.”
Saturday’s election ended months and months of speculation, rumors and nastiness in what was considered the most contentious election in federation history, at least in modern times.
After the credentials committee report, at least 610 votes were needed to win the election as the voting strength among the Youth Council (313), Adult Council (313), Pro Council (313), Athlete Council (244) and other members (36) totaled 1,219.
After the first ballot, Cordeiro (36.3 percent) led, followed by Carter (34.6), Wynalda (13.7), Martino (8.6), Steve Gans (4.1), Hope Solo (1.6), Michael Winograd (0.6) and Paul Caligiuri (0.5).
Several minutes after that ballot, Caligiuri dropped out.
There also was no winner after the second ballot, although Cordeiro (41.8) extended his lead over Carter (33.3), who lost some support. Wynalda (10.8), who also lost support, was third, followed by Martino (10.2), who gained a bit, Gans (2.4), Solo (1.5) and Winograd (0.0).
Following that vote, Winograd and Gans dropped out.
There were some intriguing twists at the 11th hour.
Overnight, U.S. Youth Soccer sent out a release to its members, urging them to vote as a bloc for Cordeiro. “We are convinced that Carlos is the right leader that the Federation needs at this time, and believe he will serve the interests of U.S. Youth Soccer and our state association membership,” the letter said.
In contrast, John Motta, head of the U.S. Adult Soccer Association told the Adult Council Friday that he would not publicly support a candidate and that its members should vote its conscience.
Cordeiro became president after serving in various roles with U.S. Soccer since being appointed as the federation’s first independent director in 2007. As vice president since 2016, he worked to reform board governance. He has also previously served as treasurer, chair of the budget committee and director of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. He also represents U.S. Soccer on the CONCACAF Council and FIFA’s Stakeholders Committee.
Gulati, who made his final address as president to the National Council, looked back at his time with the federation as he talked about the accomplishments of the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams and the country’s history of hosting big events such as the World Cup (male and female) and the Olympics.
He took a couple of shots at many of the candidates and even the North American Soccer League.
When he asked those attending their first AGM to stand, Gulati added, and “at least seven candidates.” Gulati was alluding to Cordeiro being the only candidate to be at past AGMs.
Gulati took a shot at the NASL lawsuit against USSF, calling the board “or as the defendants as I like to call them these days.” The NASL filed a lawsuit against most of the federation’s board of directors. The league’s complaint alleged that defendants – motivated by conflicts of interest and economic considerations which infect the operation of the board – breached their fiduciary duties to the league.
During his address, Gulati, chairman of the United Bid Committee, noted that there were 123 days until the united bid from Mexico, Canada and the U.S. will be decided by FIFA in Moscow June 13.
“I hope the Mueller investigation doesn’t mess anything up then,” he said, alluding to the special prosecutor Bob Mueller looking into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Gulati talked about his transition to U.S. Soccer president a dozen years ago, when he met with then president Dr. Bob Contiguglia in West Hartford, Conn. He asked the Great Neck, N.Y. native if he would seek a third term, and Contiguglia said no. Gulati announced his intentions and gave Gulati his blessing.
“It’s been a little different this time,” Gulati said.