Rocco B. Commisso: “The real causes of last night’s debacle, however, weren’t actually present on the field or on the sidelines in Trinidad. Instead, the result was a byproduct of larger, systemic problems within the sport in our country.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
By Michael Lewis
Cosmos owner and North American Soccer League chairman Rocco B. Commisso, whose league is suing U.S. Soccer, ripped into the national body and asked federation president Sunil Gulati and his board of directors to resign in wake of the Americans’ failure to reach the 2018 World Cup.
On Tuesday night, the U.S. national team failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986, losing to Trinidad & Tobago in Couva, Trinidad.
“Frankly, the leadership of U.S. Soccer has failed all of its stakeholders: players, fans, sponsors and those of us who have invested in professional soccer,” Commisso said in a statement released Wednesday night.
Commisso asked for Gulati to step down as president along with other members of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors. Gulati has not decided if he will run for re-election for a fourth time as president at the federation’s Annual General Meeting in Orlando, Fla. in February.
“The real causes of last night’s debacle, however, weren’t actually present on the field or on the sidelines in Trinidad. Instead, the result was a byproduct of larger, systemic problems within the sport in our country,” Commisso said in the statement. “The blame must be placed squarely at the feet of U.S. Soccer’s management, led by Sunil Gulati. The first step in ensuring that American soccer consistently performs at a level that spares all of us the kind of negative emotions generated by our National Team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup is for Mr. Gulati to resign. It is his only honorable path forward. The USSF Board members and senior management personnel appointed or nominated by Mr. Gulati should follow him out the door.”
Commisso said that he understood what the national team has been going through since Tuesday’s defeat.
“As a former college soccer player and youth coach, I know first-hand the flood of emotions that the U.S. men’s national team must be experiencing after last night’s loss to Trinidad and Tobago,” said Commisso, who played soccer at Columbia University. “I understand the anguish and guilt felt by the players after letting down millions of fans of the national team, young and old. I respect the professionalism that it takes for the U.S. coach to step up and take responsibility without making excuses.”
The Cosmos owner felt the United States has fallen short in producing world-class soccer players, despite having a huge population and many resources at its disposal.
“When it comes to men’s soccer, the U.S. has never come close to achieving international prominence, as it should, given our country’s size, resources and huge pool of athletic talent,” he said in a statement. “We produce the best baseball, basketball and football players in the world, but in the case of soccer the reverse is true. In the almost 12 years during which Sunil Gulati has been the USSF’s president, little or nothing has been done to enhance our prospects, despite the vast resources and power that he commands as chief executive of the sport’s governing body.”
The NASL has filed a temporary injunction against U.S. Soccer, which took away the league’s Division 2 status for 2018. A ruling in United States District Court, Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, N.Y. is expected on or before Oct. 31. The league also has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the federation.