Joe Barone on Eric Wynalda: “We think that he can do incredible things for the amateur game.”

By Michael Lewis Editor

The National Premier Soccer League is supporting Eric Wynalda for U.S. Soccer Federation president because he understands and has ties to the amateur game in this country, league chairman Joe Barone says.

The league, which has four votes in the Feb. 10 election in Orlando, was impressed with the former U.S. international’s background, platform and vision.

“We think that he can do incredible things for the amateur game,” Barone said in a recent interview.

Wynalda, one of eight candidates pursuing the presidency, met Barone and NPSL officials at the U.S. Adult Soccer Association’s mid-year meeting in Lake Tahoe in October and they walked away so impressed the board voted unanimously to back the Fox Sports announcer, who is on leave from his job.

“We see Eric Wynalda as a candidate who has ties to the amateur game, played amateur soccer, coached in amateur soccer,” Barone said. “So he has very close ties in the game itself on a day to day basis.

“Eric has a vision and is realistic because he has played at the highest level possible, which is the World Cup, knows what it feels like to play in all different levels of the game, including the amateur game and has the understanding of what it takes to be a leader and develop players. In today’s game, in today’s federation, we don’t have a sponsorship problem. We have a cultural soccer problem and we’re convinced that it’s got to be a soccer person who can fix and lead us and join us together.

“There’s plenty of good business people, marketing people who are working in U.S. Soccer currently who do their job on a day to day basis who take care of those business decisions on the business side.”

The seven other candidates include three other former U.S. national team players — Paul Caligiuri, Kyle Martino and Hope Solo, U.S. Soccer vice president Carlos Cordeiro, Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter, Boston attorney Steven Gans and New York lawyer Michael Winograd.

Barone said he had issues with the candidacies or backgrounds of Carter and Cordeiro.

He claimed that Carter has a conflict of interest. Carter is on a leave of absence from SUM, which is the marketing arm of Major League Soccer and the U.S. Soccer Federation. Barone said that Carter never called him to seek the NPSL vote.

“She’s got to be a very, very smart woman to run an organization like she does,” he said. “But at the end of the day, there are major conflicts of interest. What is the major conflict of interest? Why does she come out for the election a day after Sunil Gulati announced that he’s not running? What is she protecting? She is protecting Soccer United Marketing and the over two billion dollars that the company is worth. That is a conflict of interest. We need to clean up the game, we need to set forth a new direction in American soccer. We need unity.”

Barone said he had issues with Cordeiro because the U.S. Soccer vice president did not want to answer direct questions.

“He’s the status quo,” he said. “I call Carlos Cordeiro Sunil Gulati 2.0.”

The NPSL chairman said that when he requested a 1-on-1 meeting with Cordeiro, who instead wanted Barone to read his platform online.

“He called me: ‘Hey, Joe, I know you have your hands in multiple things, the youth game, the amateur game, the professional game. You know what, I want to clarify who I am. I want you to read my platform. Go on line and read my platform,” Barone said. ” ‘I’m not going on line to read your platform.’ I said, ‘I’m a guy you want to talk; let’s 1-on-1, let’s meet with a group. Let’s look at each other face to face. I’m not the one who said I have my hand in multiple things, you said to me, I had my hand in multiple things. If you and I want to meet, then we’re going to talk about multiple things and multiple things mean the youth game, the amateur game, the professional game. You didn’t come to me: Hey let’s talk about the NPSL voting, the amateur game.’ To make a long story short, he didn’t want to meet with me, in case I spoke about the professional game.”

None of the other presidential candidates had reached out to the NPSL, Barone said.

“No one has called me, no one has called the NPSL,” Barone said. “We have four votes in the amateur game. Nobody called. Eric is the only one who has approached us multiple times. So, the board of directors felt he was the right person.”