U.S. Soccer presidential race: Kathy Carter, an MLS original

Kathy Carter, the president of Soccer United Marketing, has emerged as a last-minute candidate in the race for U.S. Soccer president.

Her entry came less than 24 hours after current president Sunil Gulati announced he would not seek re-election. Few people have been more closely involved on the business side of soccer for the last quarter century than Carter, who got her start only a few years out of college selling a sport most companies knew nothing or could have cared less about.

Outside the world of sports business, she is not well known. Here's a look at her career ...



William & Mary record-holder. Carter played four years (1987-90) at William & Mary, which was one of the top women's programs in the 1980s and 1990s. She is tied for the lowest goals-against average in Tribe history (0.87). The team she played on as a freshman included three All-Americans: 1991 Women's World Cup champion Megan McCarthy, current U.S. women's national team coach Jill Ellis and former Princeton women's head coach Julie (Cunningham) Shackford.

Primer: Here's how U.S. Soccer's presidential election works ...

World Cup 1994 alum. Tipped off by a friend while playing a pick-up game of soccer, Carter landed a job working at the 1994 World Cup organizing committee selling corporate sponsorships. Her first sale: StarKist. She is just one of many World Cup 1994s who are still involved in soccer, including U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati (executive vice president and chief international officer), U.S. Soccer general secretary Dan Flynn (Chicago venue chief) and Relevent Sports chairman Charlie Stillitano (New York venue chief).

MLS original. The 1994 World Cup organizing committee also served as a talent pool for Major League Soccer when it launched in 1996. Gulati was deputy commissioner while Carter was hired as vice president of corporate marketing. She stayed at MLS until late 1999 when she moved to ISL. She moved to Envision and then AEG, which operated six of MLS's 10 teams, before returning to the league to handle sponsorship sales and activation in 2003.

SUM years. In 2002, MLS's owners formed Soccer United Marketing. The origin of an MLS agency was to acquire the World Cup television rights in the United States (2002 and 2006 finals) and bundle them with the MLS  television package, ensuring the struggling league -- down to 10 teams in 2002 -- stayed on national television.

But SUM soon expanded into the event and sponsorship business, taking on marketing activities for MLS and others.  On the first events it tackled was the 2003 Women's World Cup, which was moved to the United States four months before the start of the tournament as a result of the 2003 SARS outbreak in China.

It also added the rights to the Mexican national team's many games in the United States in late 2003 and U.S. Soccer and Concacaf in 2004. (SUM lost its agreement with Concacaf in 2012 but regained it in 2016 after Traffic's involvement in the criminal enterprise headed by its founder, Jose Hawila, led to indictments against dozens of soccer officials in Concacaf and Conmebol.)

In 2010, Carter was promoted to president of SUM, taking over the management of the day-to day operations from Doug Quinn. Two years later, SUM sold a 25 percent interest to the private equity firm Providence Equity Partners for a reported $150 million. When Providence sold its interest back to SUM in 2017, it had tripled its initial investment, putting SUM's value at well over $1 billion.

SUM's success symbolizes the legitimacy soccer in general -- and MLS in particular -- has developed in the U.S. business community since Carter first starting selling the sport. But critics have railed against SUM as an example of soccer becoming a big business at the expense of the purity of the game and care of its fans.

SUM has also become embroiled in the lawsuit the NASL filed against U.S. Soccer, arguing, unsuccessfully until now, that U.S. Soccer conspired against the NASL in its application of the sanctioning process because of U.S. Soccer's aligned business interests with SUM.

Crystal Ball ... Asked by Sports Business Journal in 2006 where soccer would be 20 years, Carter said the USA will have won the World Cup and MLS will be playing in at least 16 markets.

MLS has far overachieved in terms of the latter, but the former remains an elusive goal. And at the center of the debate Carter will have with other candidates for U.S. Soccer president.

8 comments about "U.S. Soccer presidential race: Kathy Carter, an MLS original".
  1. Richard T. Lynch, December 5, 2017 at 6:43 a.m.

    This article seems to state where Ms Carter WAS during her career but very little about what she DID, other than by association with these various organizations.  Just "being there" doesn't constitute qualifications.

  2. Wallace Wade, December 5, 2017 at 8:09 a.m.

    Exactly the type of candidate that will keep things status quo. Gulati and company puppet regime. Bring on Wynalda and Pro/Rel! Open up opportunities within US Soccer to all players in all locations across this country!

  3. Michael Taddonio replied, December 5, 2017 at 8:29 a.m.

              What you've said is correct.  The lady has a really good background.  However, a person is needed who has fresh ideas and a different approach to things.  The other US Soccer candidates have that.  I'm not against a woman running things, but a fresh approach is needed. 

  4. Bob Ashpole, December 5, 2017 at 10:27 a.m.

    Michael Taddonio: A fresh approach to what? We don't need a fresh approach to the business side of USSF. That management has been excellent and we should continue. She was part of that. 

    IMO she is well qualified and another fine addition to the field of candidates. 

    I don't know exactly how USSF works, but I do know that USSF has full time paid CEO and Technical Director positions. The volunteer president is not the CEO and not the technical directors. My suspiscion is that the president functions like the chairman of the board of directors while the CEO runs the day to day operations.

    The technical side, not the business side of management, is where people should be demanding new ideas and improvements.

  5. Ric Fonseca replied, December 5, 2017 at 1:35 p.m.

    Bob and others:  I can and most certainly will brag that I was one of the very first WCUSA1994 volunteer that started with then Steve Sampson, Alan Rothenberg, Cheche Vidal, Chuck Cale, Scott Letellier in the Los angeles/Century City headquarters and who stayed with the organization until the bitter end, that is saw the closing of the doors of our Century City 44th Floor on January 1, 1995. FYI, I had worked my way to be appointed WCchivist/Historian. From the early '90's I also saw the coming of many, and I mean MANY staffers, from the mail room, to legal, financial, etc, as well as the actual laying of the foundation of what was to be MLS, including Mark Abbott, Ivan Gazidis, Mike Page, and the wonderful legal staffers. I also attended many US Soccer AGM's and met other movers and shakers (as well as non-movers and non-shakers) but with all due respect to Ms. Carter, and with my connections with and at US Soccer House, the interim US Soccer presdency of Dr. Bob C., I really do not remember ever meeting Ms. Carter.  Now she may have been "hadquartered" in the NYC venue, or was housed in the AEG Los Angeles Offices; furthermore I don't recall meeting her at any of the NSCAA (former name) now United Soccer Coaches, but for sure our paths never crossed. I WILL say, unabashedly, that I welcome her potential
    candidacy, however, it is curious and gerts even more curioiser to note that even though some comments did mentiona that not one female had thrown in her hat into the ring, it wasn't until some mention of SG possibly supporting Ms. Carter, and not even more definitive with his announcement not to run, and his oblique mention of his (my words)  unspoken disagreement with US Soccer VP Cordeiro, whom most everyone felt would get SG annointment. But now, oh me oh my, how the political winds change in a matter of hours, so we're in a we shall see what we shall see very, very soon!  PLAY ON!!!   

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, December 5, 2017 at 6:52 p.m.

    Ric, my assumption is that Galati supports Carter to ensure that the current marketing plan continues. I don't think gender has anything to do with it.

  7. John Soares, December 5, 2017 at 12:31 p.m.

    There is a lot of good in the "status quo".
    We have come a long way.
    Of course some changes and improvements are due...but there is;
    Absolutely no need to turn it upside down and start over.

  8. Ric Fonseca, December 5, 2017 at 1:43 p.m.

    Correction: WCUSA 1994 Headquarters were on the 44th Floor of one of the Century City (Los Angeles) Towers. Its doors first opened in 1990/91, and the staff then included those I mentioned above plus administrative assistants. I was invited to join the group by Chuck Cale, as a volunteer doing anything and everything, and eventually convinced the bosses to be appointed archivist/historian, a volunteer position that became a paid position for the remaining calendar months of the competition, and with the final responsibility of literally emptying the 44th floor and locking the doors in January 1995.

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