Sunil Gulati's decision not to seek re-election as U.S. Soccer president is not a surprise

Sunil Gulati told ESPN FC's Sam Borden on Monday that he won't run for re-election as U.S. Soccer president.

Gulati, who has been the federation's most influential executive for 30 years, first overseeing the construction of the men's and women's national teams in the late 1980's and serving as president since 2006, made the decision with eight days to go before the deadline to register as a candidate.

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Gulati told Borden the decision not to run was a "very, very hard decision" but it is ultimately not a surprise. After the USA lost to Trinidad & Tobago, 2-1, and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Gulati refused to resign (as men's head coach Bruce Arena had done) but he didn't confirm he'd run either.

He attended the U.S. Adult Soccer's mid-year meeting in Lake Tahoe the week after the loss to T&T and spoke at regional meetings but he did not take part in a candidates' forum and confirmed to Soccer America he had not made a decision about running.

According to one U.S. Soccer insider, upwards of 60 percent-70 percent of the Adult and Youth Councils were not committed to Gulati, though he'd have still been the favorite to win, given the structure of the voting.

National Council voting strength (2017 AGM):
25.8% Adult Council
25.8% Pro Council
25.8% Youth Council
20.0% Athlete Council
2.4% Misc.

Gulati would have been consumed with a re-election campaign, taking time away from his work as chairman of the United Bid Committee, which is seeking to gain the 2026 World Cup hosting rights for the USA, Canada and Mexico. While he'd have been the favorite to win the U.S. Soccer president race, he could not risk running and losing and the impact losing would have had on the 2026 World Cup bid, on which the FIFA Congress should vote in June.

The federation instituted term limits in 2017 -- limiting the president and vice president, its two elected positions -- to three four-year terms. The exception: Gulati was allowed to run for one more term. The U.S. Soccer presidential election will be held Feb. 10 at the organization's annual general meeting in Orlando.

Seven candidates have been running, though of the five who were asked at last week's U.S. Club Soccer session with the youth organization's board of directors, only two confirmed they had the three letters of support necessary to run.

U.S. Soccer presidential candidates:
Paul Caligiuri
Carlos Cordeiro
Steve Gans
Paul Lapointe
Kyle Martino
Michael Winograd
Eric Wynalda

"I've met all seven who have declared their candidacies, and there are lots of different thoughts among them about what's important," Gulati said of the seven candidates in his interview with ESPN FC. "I think several of them would be in for a pretty big shock about what the job is -- it's not just about national teams. It's about 4 million registered players, referees, medical safety, grass-roots stuff. It feels like that stuff gets ignored sometimes."

In addition, SUM president Kathy Carter confirmed to ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle on Sunday that she was considering a run, a development first reported by's Grant Wahl.

If Carter runs, she'd become the establishment candidate and likely have Gulati's support. Cordeiro, the U.S. Soccer vice president elected to his position in 2016, announced his decision to run without the backing of Gulati.

Cordeiro and Gulati had worked closely on U.S. Soccer, FIFA and Concacaf matters over the last decade.

3 comments about "Sunil Gulati's decision not to seek re-election as U.S. Soccer president is not a surprise".
  1. Bob Ashpole, December 4, 2017 at 7:15 p.m.

    Gulati currently has 3 soccer jobs in addition to his teaching. He will still be very involved with his 2 remaining soccer jobs after his term as USSF president ends and will be a valuable resource for his successor. 

  2. Ric Fonseca, December 4, 2017 at 9:44 p.m.

    First, the line that his decision not to run was not a surprise, the actual surprise is to have SG wait but with a few days remaining before actually having to declare his candidacy. This left many folks with varied speculation, one being that he'd by not running he would throw his support to Cordeiro, and since he's still connected very strongly to FIFA, that Cordeiro should he were to win, would assign SG to some plum position within USSF. But after reading the other article, it appears as if that relationship has soured and then we have Carter's possible candidacy and a quote several days ago that SG would suppoprt her run. Interesting, to say the least, since several days ago here in SA someone decried the fact - with which I agreed - that no female candidacy had submitted the paperwork. Ans now we haved SG's "mea culpish" kind of announcement, for sure leaves a lot of open speculation. We do wish that perhaps SA should tell us ASAP who the candidates are that've submitted a complete application?  Oh well, it shall always be  PLAY ON!!! 

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, December 5, 2017 at 1:26 a.m.

    The last I heard was that US Club Soccer withdrew all their nominations prior to their forum. At the forum only 2 of the 5 participating candidates had the required 3 nominations. I think who is running will be confused right up to the deadline, which I think is the 8th.

    Allowing organizations to withdraw nominations is very confusing.

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