Commentary

Wynalda considers duel with Gulati for U.S. Soccer presidency

Following Eric Wynalda on Twitter is fun, fascinating and foreboding all at the same time, and it can be exhausting as he darts from dark proclamations of doom to bold backings of anything anti-establishment when it comes to soccer.

Never short of something to say, whether or not it’s backed by facts or truths, he’s been hinting for at least a few weeks of taking a dramatic step, and on Friday he revealed it to The Guardian.



He says it's time to challenge the U.S. Soccer president in an election to be held early next year, prior to the World Cup, the struggles of which to reach by the U.S. team have ramped up criticism of incumbent Sunil Gulati. Wynalda played collegiately at San Diego State and along with earning 106 caps and scoring 34 goals from 1990 to 2000 represented clubs in Germany, Mexico, and MLS prior to his retirement in 2008.

Since then he’s coached several teams in different lower-division leagues and worked as a broadcaster and commentator for ESPN, Fox Sports and Sirius XM, and taken potshots at the soccer establishment at every stop along the way. Not for him are the escalating resources and revenues and promises generated by Major League Soccer, nor the – as he perceives – the staid and stagnant status of U.S. Soccer.

“I’ve stood back for two decades waiting for things to get better,” Wynalda told Guardian. “What I’ve realized is that there is not a whole lot of people who are willing or even wanting to invoke change. Out of moral obligation, I think I’m finally at the point where I’m asking, ‘What can I do to help?’ I don’t want to tweet something or write an article or start a fight. I want to roll up my sleeves.”

Wynalda joins Boston-based attorney Steve Gans, United Premier League Soccer regional executive Paul Lapointe and USASA president John Motta as possible challengers to Gulati, who has run opposed the past two elections (2010, 2014) after being elected to his first term in March 2006.

Not since the six-year rule of Werner Fricker ended in 1990 has a prominent former player served as federation president. Fricker lost a contentious election that year to Los Angeles corporate lawyer and sports attorney Alan Rothenberg, who had been soccer commissioner at the 1984 Olympics.

After serving as chair of the 1994 World Cup Organizing Committee and helping to found MLS, Rothenberg stepped down after two terms and was replaced in 1998 by Dr. Robert Contiguglia, a Denver-based kidney specialist, and youth coach who had been president of the Colorado Youth Soccer Association. In 2006, Contiguglia chose not to run, and Gulati, U.S. Soccer executive vice president at the time, ran unopposed and was elected unanimously.

It is this unchecked, unchallenged 11-year run of authority that many people, not just Wynalda, believe has steered U.S. Soccer off-course.

“I don’t think it is healthy unless there is a clear vision or a plan,” Wynalda said, though many programs directed as specific issues – such as the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and competitive youth teams run by MLS clubs –- have been initiated during Gulati’s tenure.
“Right now, it is just one guy who not only professes to be the smartest guy in the room and has an answer for every single question you throw at him but he has an agenda and that is why there is a lot of people saying enough is enough. His agenda is to stay in power and that is it.”

Now, some might think that a leader who “has an answer for every question thrown at him” can at least justify his policies and decisions, a few of which have cost Gulati credibility, such as a new four-year contract given to former U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann before the 2014 World Cup. Firing Klinsmann last year resulted in a $6.2 million "accounting charge."

That contract was approved by the Board of Directors, a polyglot group of administrators, former players, and soccer officials such as MLS commissioner Don Garber and Motta that is headed by Gulati and current executive vice president Carlos Cordeiro.

The federation is awash with state associations, councils, programs, budgets and committees that require extensive oversight. For a job that pays nothing except travel expenses, it’s a big one and goes far beyond public matters such as negotiations with the U.S women's team and controversial termination of a contract with goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Gulati has not stated if he will run again but there is every reason to believe he will, and whether Wynalda’s “moral obligation” will resonate with the U.S. Soccer electorate, he will undoubtedly strike a chord with a small but vocal contingent of critics taking aim at Gulati, MLS, U.S. Soccer and just about anything else regarding the direction of the sport.

“I’ve had at least 50 calls from people encouraging me to run,” Wynalda told the Guardian. “Not just people on Twitter who want promotion and relegation and want the house of cards to fall. I’ve heard from people who want to know how we can make soccer better in this country.”

Wynalda may or may not know how to accomplish that feat, but he’s dead-certain the status quo is not working.

“People are no longer just interested or curious about soccer in the U.S.,” he said. “They are passionate. This is the moment to really give these people who are in love with the game a better product.”

45 comments about "Wynalda considers duel with Gulati for U.S. Soccer presidency".
  1. David Trapp, September 23, 2017 at 7:37 a.m.

    Anyone is better than Gulati.

  2. Ed M, September 23, 2017 at 7:40 a.m.

    Hmmmm... Saying and doing are two different things.If the author relies on a single article that lacks the facts then his "article" will lack even more. Wynalda may say he is running but has not yet initiated or submitted the required paperwork to US Soccer. None of the mentioned candidates have. Only one has Paul Lapointe, and you don't even mention him. Go ahead, Google him. There are several interviews and a podcast where he states his plans, no one else his, and states his views, no one else has either. Poor reporting once again.

  3. Ridge Mahoney from Soccer America replied, September 26, 2017 at 3:14 p.m.


    fourth paragraph:

    Wynalda joins Boston-based attorney Steve Gans, United Premier League Soccer regional executive Paul Lapointe and USASA president John Motta as possible challengers to Gulati, who has run opposed the past two elections (2010, 2014) after being elected to his first term in March 2006.

  4. frank schoon, September 23, 2017 at 10:27 a.m.

    Good, put someone in there who has smelled the grass and actually has played at a high enough level home and abroad. Give him a chance and see what he can do.
    These types are more pragmatic, direct and to the point and can see through the BS. He's got my vote.

  5. cony konstin, September 23, 2017 at 10:51 a.m.

    We need a soccer revolution in the US. We need radical change. We need a 21st century master plan. We need visionary leadership who is willing to make unorthodox decisions. We need leadership that is willing to take on the status quo. We don't need just one person. We need a grass root army to make change. One person can not fix this. It's time that the youth and amateur adult get together and form a coalition. That is the first thing that must be done. Otherwise the Pro side will get what they want more of the same minutia.

  6. James Griffin, September 23, 2017 at 11:12 a.m.

    Hope he does it. I've met and talked with Eric at NSCAA conventions. He has the pedigree and the passion. It is time for a change. We need action, not talk. Hopefully he will not get caught up in the politics.

  7. Kevin Leahy, September 23, 2017 at 11:49 a.m.

    It is a tough job with a lot of critics. It is also something that, you don't really know how well the person has done until after they left the position. One thing I do know, you will never make all the people happy. All the alphabet soup of youth soccer should tell you that.

  8. Fire Paul Gardner Now, September 23, 2017 at 12:04 p.m.

    Still not clear what his platform is. Highly doubtful Gulati loses anyway.

  9. T L replied, September 27, 2017 at 9:16 a.m.

    What a surprise. Fire doesnt support Wynalda.

  10. , September 23, 2017 at 3:12 p.m.

    Pretty sure Lapointe was mentioned in the article
    Good reporting Ridge
    Wynalda would be a good choice. He's not just a players advocate or a business representative, he knows the game at the local level all the way to the highest level in the world

  11. Bob Ashpole, September 23, 2017 at 6:47 p.m.

    Knowing the game is nice, but the primary role of the USSF president is to manage a national sports organization. Managing subject matter experts does not require subject matter expertise, but it does require management skills.

  12. frank schoon replied, September 23, 2017 at 7:13 p.m.

    Bob, it is not perfect world, most leaders in soccer have little or no soccer experience to really understand what they are leading. I assume that if Wynalda lacks managerial experience than he hires someone who is good at and allow Eric to do what he needs to do. Like Cruyff, he hires specialists for what he is not good at like physical endurance training ,for example . I want Wynalda to start emphasize and focus on new and better ideas and that will improve the game that this present leader lacks.

  13. Mario Cesarone, September 23, 2017 at 7:32 p.m.

    Wynalda is a good commentator but US Soccer needs a good manager not someone to rattle cages. Gulati has made great strides, many of you remember the meager budgets and amateur hour before the Rothenberg Era.

  14. don Lamb, September 23, 2017 at 8:50 p.m.

    No thanks. I wouldn't trust this dude to make good decisions because of his ginormous ego.

  15. T L replied, September 27, 2017 at 9:16 a.m.

    We could all guess you answer there cheerleader

  16. Julio Moreira, September 24, 2017 at 9:24 a.m.

    Great Eric, you can do it, you have the knowledge of what the game needs. Great person, executive, well versed and North American looking, exactly what we need. Soccer will always thank you.

  17. MA Soccer, September 24, 2017 at 10:40 a.m.

    Eric would be better but my vote would be Steve Gans. Getting close to the 25 year anniversary of world cup in US: Marginal improvement of national team and a negative national trend in youth soccer which in my opinion is being mismanaged and made worse by US Soccer. Need a change on the top as a start.

  18. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, September 24, 2017 at 10:55 a.m.

    We are light years ahead of where we were 25 years ago. Still got a long way to go but the growth of our soccer culture and infrastructure is significant.

  19. don Lamb replied, September 24, 2017 at 1:11 p.m.

    Negative trend in youth soccer??? Just because kids might have to meet some new friends if they want to play the game? If a kid ONLY wants to play the game because one of his classmates that happens to have been born in a different year, then I don't think we are missing out on much when they decide not to play. Do you have any other issues?

  20. Bob Ashpole replied, September 24, 2017 at 2:59 p.m.

    Don there are negative trends while there has been improvements too. The MLS youth academies are a positive. The NWSL is a positive. The development academy should be a positive, but there are some problems. The development academy is very insular. The USSF is pretty much only scouting the DA clubs. Pay to play still dominates (with its high costs in terms of travel and unproductive time) and many tournament and state cups competitions with degraded development opportunities. There is still too much emphasis on team tactics during the fundamental stage. In fact with the new initiatives it seems like USSF is pushing functional training on the fundamental stage. The focus even with the youngest players is on positions in a specific 433 system and on functional training rather than fundamentals. This contradicts the accepted teaching progression of general to specific. It also aims to develop players for a specific system instead of players who can play any system. I have played over 800 adult matches most of them in a 433 system and I have never played with a 6,8 and 10 midfield. I have played plenty of diamond midfields in a 442, but virtually never with one 6 in a three man midfield. The vast majority of the time I played with 3 box to box midfielders sharing responsibilities. I suspect that virtually all coaches in the US also lack significant playing experience with an inflexible 6, 8, 10 midfield organization. In my experience most teams played with 4 midfielders, men's and women's and did a lot of interchanging of roles.

  21. Bob Ashpole replied, September 24, 2017 at 3:07 p.m.

    Don, let me give you a short example of what I am talking about: the "new" USSF youth initiatives focus almost exclusively on matches, not on training.

  22. don Lamb replied, September 24, 2017 at 10:15 p.m.

    Bob - Your post understates the improvements in youth soccer over the last 25 years. If the only negative that you can come up with about youth soccer is the implementation of the 4-3-3 (which is actually only the case with DAs and youth national teams). You will always be able to look at an incredibly broad task like transforming youth soccer and find SOMETHING to bitch about. It's just that those things pale in scope to what is actually happening. The change that has happened over the last 25 years has been incredible. It seems like its exponential growth has really started to kick in over the 5-10 years. If it continues at it's current pace -- given our potential as a sporting nation -- there is no reason soccer can't make tremendous strides very quickly within our culture. Yet, some here say that we are somehow failing and need drastic change....

  23. Bob Ashpole replied, September 24, 2017 at 11:27 p.m.

    Don you are discounting what I said. This year USSF wants coaches of 8 year olds to train them to play positions in a 433 system.

  24. don Lamb replied, September 24, 2017 at 11:44 p.m.

    Where do you see that, Bob? Anyway, that is minutia. The big stuff is on a promising path.

  25. frank schoon replied, September 25, 2017 at 9:04 a.m.

    Bob, It is amazing that the USSF wants coaches of 8 year old to train following the 433 system....UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! Like you say "specific to general". This is unreal, no wonder we haven't produced a decent World Class player in 50 years.

  26. don Lamb replied, September 25, 2017 at 11:27 a.m.

    Frank and Bob - If US Soccer is pushing SSGs at U8 (I think they say 4v4 there), how are they forcing a 433 at U8 when that is not anywhere close to possible. I think what you mean is that they are stressing the teaching of skills and principles that translate to a 433. While hardly any coaches in this country will follow the curriculum to that extent (and I have my own issues with the curriculum), that is hardly an issue with player development in this country. The fact is, the track of player development has improved a million times over the last 10 years, and we are on track to develop a world class player in the next decade. Yet, the popular opinion here is to blow it up?

  27. Bob Ashpole replied, September 25, 2017 at 1:22 p.m.

    Don, current E license instruction includes a handout for the 433 system with numbers identifying each position in a system with the 6, 8, and 10 midfield. Coaches are told to verbally assign by number specific positions to every player in every training exercise so that a 4v4 SSG will actually be a microcosm of some part of the 11v11 game as played by two senior teams using the same 433 system. I suspect most youth coaches and clubs are ignoring this part of the new initiative.

  28. Bob Ashpole replied, September 25, 2017 at 1:25 p.m.

    Just so its clear, if a coach is teaching kids how to play a specific position in a specific 11v11 system, that by definition is functional training and team tactics.

  29. Bob Ashpole replied, September 25, 2017 at 1:31 p.m.

    Don: "Your post understates the improvements in youth soccer over the last 25 years." I would agree with this if the focus is on clubs that are doing things correctly. Except that 25 years ago there were also clubs doing things correctly. To judge improvement you have to look at whether the best practices have spread to a larger number of clubs today compared with 25 years ago.

  30. frank schoon replied, September 25, 2017 at 2:27 p.m.

    Bob,this is sad. Remember Jerry Seinfeld's, routine, "Who are these people ?" Involving system on this level with these kids who have difficulty tying their soccer shoes is totally absurd. Just let them play and play and play until they become technically decent, for the first step is not team play or system play but strictly technical growth, to hold to the ball under pressure and able stand on you own against competition; for without first attaining that ability tactical systems are a joke. They learned their technique playing basically small sides games without the fanfare of positions.Everything in street soccer emphasized technique nothing with systems. So after the youth street soccer players honed their skills ,they joined a club and learned to play a tactical system was a breeze. You can tell the people who run and make these stupid technical, or rather lack technical decisions, have no clue and are part and parcel responsible for the dearth of creative players. This crew who are responsible for the technical
    decisions on training would show no hesitation placing a chip into the players head if it would work.

  31. don Lamb replied, September 25, 2017 at 4 p.m.

    I agree that that is not the approach to take with U8s. However, if this is the reason that we are saying that youth soccer is "broken" and that change all the way at the very top is needed because of it, then we are getting way off track from what really matters.

  32. T L replied, September 27, 2017 at 9:25 a.m.

    Who is to say that how much soccer has grown could have happened under basically anybody's watch or that it would have been even better under Wynalda today had he taken over back qhen Gulati did? I would certainly bet on it.

  33. frank schoon, September 24, 2017 at 3:31 p.m.

    BOB, They got one thing right, at least, and that is the 4-3-3 system,which according, to Cruyff is the best system for youth play and learn for it contains all the9 cardinal points, 3 horizontal lines, and 3 vertical lines.
    Very simple system, defenders, midfielders and attackers and the rest 6,8,10 or whatever you call is not worth bothering over. You know a lot more about the manner of training the USSF chooses which ,I agree, is not good.I'm not familiar with all training focus and what not for all I have to watch is how the kids play and tells me enough that they're doing it wrong. I agree that going from specific to general is totally wrong. This like some coach telling a player who has the potential of being a great one on one player to one or two touch or not to dribble much without knowing what his future capabilities in one on one dribbling are. Since the coach doesn't know he should remain neutral and allow the kid to develop in a general way in what he can be good in.
    With these specific instructions that limits the player this coach has skipped the 'general' or neutral position.
    That is why Dave vander Bergh stated why we lack so few good one on one players. I hope that the next head of USSF will stress individuality in youth training in the formative stages. We have been developing basically a bunch of stiffs who lack creativeness with a ball.

  34. Bob Ashpole replied, September 24, 2017 at 3:39 p.m.

    I think the 343 is a pretty good second choice. (Basically it is a 433 in possession.) When both teams play it, there are 1v1 matchups all over the field and man to man marking can be employed. (Just like in the WM days long past.) Good training and preparation for more advanced tactics.

  35. frank schoon replied, September 24, 2017 at 3:43 p.m.

    Bob, same difference.....both systems have lots of triangles....

  36. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, September 24, 2017 at 4:34 p.m.

    Wow, haven't heard you mention Cruyff before.

  37. Linda Gohl, September 24, 2017 at 3:39 p.m.

    I am not sure that it is correct to say Eric has no management skills or experience. Hasn't he managed several competitive soccer teams over the years?

  38. Bob Ashpole replied, September 24, 2017 at 3:48 p.m.

    Managing 23 players and maybe a half dozen staff is not the same as managing a national organization. Nobody said that he had no management experience or skills. Gulati doesn't have Wynalda's playing and coaching skills or experience, but he teaches sports management and did have significant USSF management experience before he was elected USSF president. I am not saying Wynalda cannot do the job. I am just pointing out that Gulati was better qualified when he ran the first time.

  39. frank schoon replied, September 24, 2017 at 3:48 p.m.

    I wonder how many would object if when Cruyff were alive he offered to run the USSF, I would like to have seen how many would have complained over the lack of management skills.....

  40. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, September 24, 2017 at 4:36 p.m.

    Now you are comparing Cruyff to Eric Wynalda? In any event different skill sets are required to be a great player on the one hand and to manage a soccer federation on the other. Some people may have both skillsets but simply being a good or great player doesn't mean you will be a good soccer executive.

  41. Ric Fonseca, September 25, 2017 at 6:48 p.m.

    UNFRICKING BELIEVEABLE!!! And here all the time I thought the comments were to be mostly about Eric W, and yet, a goodly number of them debate the merits of teaching 8 year olds the "whatever" is in vogue system of play! As Coach John Wooden used to say, "goodness gracious me!" I do declare that the 25-year "time stamp" was first uttered during the late '60's when the youth programs took off first locally and then nationally. I remember the fledgling ayso and club movements' leaders would thump their chests a-la-Tarzan and say that "this was the sports elixir" the country yearned for and in that time the country would produce the much needed soccer players in order to compete with the rest of the futbol-soccer playing countries! And know what, I do believe that Eric Wynalda was among those young groups of players. As someone who has lived during that time period, I have been a first-hand witness to what has transpired from the Fricker era to the present; I was present when Rothenberg won, Dr. Bob succeeding him, and then the Gulati era. In addition to Wynalda, IMHO, the ONLY other person who ought to run for the post is former US Soccer Exec Dir, Hank Steinbrecher. You folks want experience, managerial and people skills, thorough knowledge of the wport, and someone who is highly respected throughout the soccer world, well then pilgrims, he's the man, though having experienced first hand what it takes to run the organization, I doubt he'd want to do it. As for Gulati, I first met him during the election when Rothenberg won, a young guy who strutted around as if he knew and felt he belonged with the big shots, and with whom he developed an "amigoship" with the departed CONCACAF honcho. During the 94 WCUSA, there he was again, strutting around, etc. etc. As for Waldo, yes he's brash, but I can tell you also have known him, he tells it like it is, not only does he know the US soccer scene, but internationally as well. Lastly, in this country we have something known as "term limits" and yet, the national soccer-playing community stands in danger of seeing the beginning or a soccer oligarchy controlled by an almost and wanna-be soccer czar. Oh, there's more to this story, but I shall stop here and not bore you any more, that is of course, you want me to pontificate on the 4-4-3, or 4-3-3- teaching banalities for 8 year olds?

  42. Bob Ashpole replied, September 25, 2017 at 7:03 p.m.

    Your opinion of Wynalda counts a lot with me, Ric. USSF needs to get more former national team players involved in all aspects of the organization. Maybe Wynalda as president would get that done.

  43. don Lamb replied, September 25, 2017 at 7:53 p.m.

    Ric - Gulati is the one who imposed term limits, so your characterization of him as some power hungry "wanna-be soccer czar" rings hollow. You can pontificate all you want about player development at the U8 level, but the fact is, our problems as a soccer nation have little to do with what USSF is doing there. Coaching is an issue at that level, but that is much different from a curriculum issue, which is easily overcome with good coaches. A lot of "experts" talk about the need for great coaches at the youngest levels, and I'll tell you what would be much more valuable than your pontificating here would be your actual involvement there.

  44. frank schoon replied, September 25, 2017 at 8:36 p.m.

    Ric, you know I was thinking about Hank the other day. I got to know him when he coached at Warren Wilson College in NC. I used to visit him bringing with me soccer equipment from my store Soccer World. He definitely is qualified and is a good man. That would be quite a combination if Eric and Hank would team up.

  45. T L, September 27, 2017 at 9:15 a.m.

    What a surprise. The Mls and Ussf cheerleaders on this blog dont support Wynalda even though he is clearly and by far a better choice for that position. Don Lamb and Fire, you both are clearly on an agenda here but as you can see most disagree with you.

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