U.S. Soccer will work with the Trump
administration, but Gulati admitted there remained lots of unanswered questions: who will be in Trump administration but most important, what are the terms of the 2026 World Cup bid process, which
won't be determined until January 2017.
“First, we haven’t made a decision about a World Cup bid," he said. "We won’t make a decision until we know what all the rules are. With regard to the election results, we respect the election and will work with whoever is in the White House — in this case, President-elect Trump and his team — if we decide to bid. A bid, if it should happen, relies critically on cooperation with the government in a number of areas. We look forward to working with the president-elect. He is an avid sports fan and we’ll wait to see if we bid and what the rules of engagement are."
“What I said [in June] was a joint bid would be more difficult if [Hillary Clinton] weren’t elected. But we’re not talking about a joint bid at this point. We’re not talking about any bid right now. I don’t think it will affect our final decision.”
In June, Gulati had said the world's perception of the United States would be affected by who's in the White House, and he said he didn't think U.S. Soccer's ties to Hillary Clinton -- former President Bill Clinton chaired the World Cup 2022 bid in 2010 and Clinton Foundation president Donna Shalala is a U.S. Soccer board member -- would be held against it with a Trump administration in place.
He noted the number of government officials who were soccer fans -- something that was unimaginable in 1988 when the USA won the bid to host the 1994 World Cup.
“We will have the ability to approach the right people," he said. "We’ll develop those relationships. In the White House today and in the White House on [January] 21st, there will be people in the building who love the game. Frankly, that is true in every statehouse across the country. That’s different than 20 years ago. That reflects the changing nature of the game and the importance of the game in the country.”
Gulati said the USA's options were to bid alone, bid with Mexico or Canada, bid with both neighbors or not bid at all. The terms of joint bids will still need to be determined -- including a fundamental issue: who among them, if at any of them, get automatic bids as hosts.
"[Within U.S. Soccer]," he noted, "we have some very different opinions, even within our own board [of directors], about that — about feasibility, about desirability, the need for a joint bid."
In other topics discussed with a roundtable of media representatives on Friday before the USA-Mexico game in Columbus, Gulati said:
On the possibility of a coaching change if the men's national team got bad results in the Hexagonal:
-- "We've never changed coaches in qualifying since 1989." (Bob Gansler became the full-time coach in place of Lothar Osiander, who held the position on a part-time basis while holding down his job at a San Francisco restaurant.)
On whether he'll have opposition or whether he'll run again for U.S. Soccer president in 2018:
-- "No idea. No decision."
On term limits for U.S. president, a position he has held for three-plus four-year terms:
-- U.S. Soccer will propose term limits for all board members (three four-year terms). The proposals will be voted on in 2017. (He said they'd likely include a plus-one clause, so anyone termed out by new by-laws would get the possibility to serve one more term.)
On the future of the NASL, which will lose two teams (Ottawa and Tampa Bay) to the USL and one team (Minnesota United) to MLS:
"I am fully confident it will go forward."
On the future of the U-17 residency program in Bradenton ...
-- It will be evaluated. Gulati said the youth landscape may have changed sufficiently -- academy programs and local residency programs developed by MLS clubs -- that it is no longer necessary.