By Michael Lewis
ORLANDO — So you think you know who’s going to be the next president of the U.S. Soccer Federation?
Well, your guess is probably as good as anyone else’s.
After months of campaigning, seemingly endless promises made and 11th-hour politicking and perhaps some arm-twisting the successor to Sunil Gulati will be decided at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld Saturday morning.
Gulati, the three-term incumbent who decided not to seek another term, has even criticized some of the candidates for some of their misstatements about the federation.
So many rumors abound from insiders that sometimes it has been difficult to make head or tails of the election. Depending on who you ask, either Kathy Carter, who has stepped down from her position as Soccer United Marketing president, has the inside track or Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino are in position to accrue more votes and win, even though a first ballot win was unlikely.
One thing appears to be certain: with so many candidates for the top seat, the election, scheduled to start at 10 a.m., will go to a second ballot and perhaps beyond. If nobody receives the majority on the first ballot, another round of ballots will be cast. That process will continue until one candidate receives the majority of votes cast.
The National Council meeting and election will be televised at www.USSoccer.com and on YouTube, starting at 8 a.m. ET.
In contrast to a national general election for president, this particular process is much more difficult to handicap because only 500-600 delegates are involved. It is difficult to poll these delegates, who also have been known to promise to vote for a particular candidate and instead cast their ballot for another. Others are just not saying.
Perhaps one veteran of USSF elections, who will go unnamed, said it best for the candidates: “Know who is not voting for you and build from there.”
Carter, who is expected to have 25 percent of the Pro Council vote in her pocket thanks to Major League Soccer’s support, enters Saturday as the front runner. If Carter can secure the support the Athletes Council, which makes up 20 percent of the vote, she will be in a more secure position.
This is how difficult it has been to figure out the election: One source said that a majority of the Athletes Council was leaning heavily toward Carter, while another said that was not the case.
Several critics claim a Carter administration would be a continuation of Gulati’s regime and policies.
U.S. Soccer vice president Carlos Cordeiro, a member of the USSF board of directors for a decade, has kept his profile under the radar. If he receives enough votes, he could become a factor, whether it is swinging the election toward Carter or perhaps vice versa.
Former U.S. internationals and television commentators Wynalda and Martino are considered the top outsiders, followed by attorneys Michael Winograd and Steve Gans, ex-U.S. internationals Paul Caligiuri and Hope Solo, considered a longshot to win.
After a tense session Thursday night, the six “outsiders” reportedly agreed to an alliance in which they support the top vote-getter from their group if the election needs to go to a second ballot. However, on Friday night, it appeared that alliance had unraveled.
Each candidate will have an opportunity to address to the National Council one more time Saturday, in this order:
Caligiuri, Gans, Winograd, Carter, Martino, Wynalda, Solo, Cordeiro.
The National Council breakdown is expected to be close to the numbers from the 2017 AGM:
Youth Council — 25.8 percent
Adult Council — 25.8 percent
Professional Council — 25.8 percent
Athletes Council — 20 percent
Miscellaneous — Board members, Life members and other members
“This has to go down as one of the dirtiest and nastiest elections I’ve ever been involved with,” U.S. Adult Soccer Association president John Motta told the Adult Council Friday afternoon. “The nastiness that has been going on for months, there’s no need in the game.
“I’ve seen some friendships broken over this.”
Still, Motta is optimistic on regardless who wins.
“I feel very confident whoever becomes the leader of U.S. Soccer tomorrow,” he said. “I know we’ll be in a very good place.”