MLS commissioner Don Garber: “Ultimately, the pros and the athletes carry a lot of weight as a bloc.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
So, what did we learn from the U.S. Soccer Federation presidential election in Orlando Saturday?
Well, the support that the six change candidates were not as great as many media members reported and observers felt it was and waned as the process went to a second and third ballot.
More importantly, the Pro and Athlete Councils wield a huge amount of power. Most of the Pro Council, which had backed Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter on the first two ballots, had about 25 percent of the vote. The Athletes, as mandated by federal law about sports’ national governing bodies, had 20 percent.
The Adult and Youth Councils have about 25 percent of the vote each.
Why so did the Pros and Athletes enjoy so much clout?
Because they have did not have to convince many members to vote as a bloc. When you can move a sizable number of votes around without turning individuals off or creating internal controversy, that makes you a powerful force in an election.
On Friday night, the Athletes decided to throw their support to USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro, who was elected as the new president. Former U.S. international Stuart Holden, a member of the Athlete Council and a FOX Sports commentator, said the membership’s final three choices were Kyle Martino, Carter and Cordeiro.
About 15 of the 20-member Athlete Council showed up at the USSF Annual General Meeting. It certainly was easier to find a consensus or convince that number to vote as a bloc than dozens if not more than 100.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Holden said. “When we got in the room, we felt it was important to be able to bloc. We ran an internal process, and we weren’t near a consensus. Everybody was informed, everyone was engaged, everyone had an opinion, and everybody brought a discussion to the table. As we started to narrow it down, have those discussions, we found a candidate in Carlos that we could unite behind and show the strength of the athlete.”
While the Adults and Youth have substantial voting power, they are divided in 110 state associations — 55 in each category (some states have two associations, such as New York, California and Texas). So, getting all 55 states in one council on the same page backing one candidate is much more difficult, if not impossible.
After the first ballot, Cordeiro (36.3 percent) led Carter (34.6) by 1.7 percentage points, while the “Gang of six” change candidates garnered 29.1 of the vote, led by Eric Wynalda (1.37).
After the second ballot, Cordeiro started picking up some steam (41.8) as Carter slipped to 33.3. The “Gang of six” fell to 24.9 (as Wynalda, the leader of that pack dropped to 10.8).
So, after that ballot Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber made a decision that decided the election. He swung his league’s votes from Carter to Cordeiro as did the National Women’s Soccer League and United Soccer League.
The final tally on the third ballot: Cordeiro (68.6), Carter (10.6), Martino (10.6), Wynalda (8.9) and Hope Solo (1.4).
“As we were looking through the rounds, we didn’t think that Kathy would be able to garner the support to get a majority,” he said. “Ultimately, the pros and the athletes carry a lot of weight as a bloc. The professionals, not just MLS, but MLS, the NWSL, and the USL have a strong voice, and taking that voice over to the new president is important. It’s a statement to Carlos that we’re behind him, and it’s an indicator of our desire to work very closely with him in the years to come.”
And if the Pro and Athlete Councils stick together internally, they will wield much power in future USSF elections as well.