At the heart of the matter, why didn't U.S. Soccer take action? Perhaps speaking in terms the senators could relate to, Flynn said it all came down
to votes. "We pride ourselves in our leadership," he said, "but understand at times our limited capacity for reform."
He rattled off the voting totals. U.S. Soccer's direct representation on FIFA consists of one member -- Gulati -- out of 25 on the executive committee. U.S. Soccer is just one of 209 members of FIFA. And it is one of just of 35 voting members of Concacaf, where voting control, Flynn noted, was held in the Caribbean with its 25 votes Warner held in his back pocket for many years.
Flynn said it came down to a "two-choice equation." Within FIFA, the choice was to participate or opt out.
"Find a way to participate," Flynn said, "in a manner consistent with our mission and core values." To participate was to get "a louder voice and seat at the table" in April 2013 when Gulati was elected to replace Blazer on the FIFA executive committee. To opt out, he said, was to risk the "hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars" that had been invested in building American soccer over the last 20 years.
(The rub, Flynn didn't mention, is that to participate in the game is to play the game. Gulati beat Mexican Justino Compean, in an 18-17 vote many expected Compean would win. Gulati needed 16 of the 25 Caribbean votes to overcome Compean's bloc support in Central America. The vote was not decided in Gulati's favor until the final vote registered by Anguilla -- a British overseas territory with a population of 13,600 -- breaking the 17-17 tie.)
Within Concacaf, the choices were to get what U.S. Soccer needed and keep quiet or face exclusion.
Flynn said U.S. Soccer needed to host events to grow the game, events like the Gold Cup, which has been held in the United States every year since its inception since 1991, and men's qualifying for the Olympics, which will again be held in the United States in October.
"We had to at times balance that with the potential to opt out," Flynn said of the USA's choices. "I felt with Mr. Blazer we had other things to do that could help build the sport and there was some concern that if I brought it to Mr. Blazer's attention, I may feel some level of discomfort in a different way."
Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal, who had Flynn in his cross-hairs all afternoon, suggested there was a third choice: "Begin to ask questions. Begin an inquiry. Begin to shine the light. Begin to blow the whistle. Begin essentially holding accountable officials who might be guilty -- and we now know they are -- of wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and bribery that directly impacted the quality and integrity of the sport that you are responsible for upholding."
Jennings called U.S. Soccer "gutless" for not speaking out. Blumenthal said U.S. Soccer was guilty of "willful ignorance or blatant incompetence." Whatever it was, it sold short what Flynn has done in his 15 years as secretary general and Gulati in his 30 years working for the federation and everyone else has done to build up the sport in the United States.
By whatever standard you want to pick -- television revenues, fan support, FIFA sponsors, stadiums, infrastructure and, yes, results on the field -- American soccer is a powerhouse that shouldn't have to worry that it will be excluded if it speaks out.