During Contiguglia's presidency, the U.S. women won the 1999 World Cup, the 2004 Olympic gold medal, and the 2002 U-20 Women's World Cup -- and the men reached the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup
and the semifinals of the 1999 U-17 World Cup. Contiguglia, a kidney specialist M.D. who ran a private practice in Denver through 2007 -- hence known as Dr. Bob -- was a member of U.S. Soccer's Board
of Directors as immediate past president through last weekend's election of Carlos Cordeiro as the new USSF President.
BOB CONTIGUGLIA: I am incredibly optimistic. Our organizational growth has been meteoric and I expect continued growth. Carlos Cordeiro is the right choice for president and I agree with him that we can build U.S. Soccer into a $500 million company to be on a level with Germany, England and Spain. As we continue to invest in the game, our player development programs will turn out more and better talented athletes and our coaching programs will also progress. I see the same with our commitment to the fans and referees.
What would your advice be to Carlos Cordeiro?
Carlos is one of the smartest and hardest working people in soccer. My advice to him is to "know your limitations," ask for help and be inclusive and collaborative; continue to be honest, independent and demonstrate integrity. Carlos knows that we have many outstanding people on staff and in the community ready to help and support him. I know he will take advantage of that.
How did you feel about how the campaigns were run?
The campaign negativity and acrimony were mainly driven by a group who disagree with Federation board decisions and who are suing the federation. Their candidates, namely Eric Wynalda and Hope Solo are unfit for the job and, tactically, they had to go negative to be recognized.
Some of the other athlete candidates were well meaning and represented the passion of the soccer community, but they lacked the experience to be the board chair of a $150 million company. The two attorneys [Steve Gans and Mike Winograd] had great resumes, but no one knew them. Kathy Carter was hurt by perceived conflicts of interest. Carlos ran a professional and competent campaign focusing on the members' needs and interests with realistic solutions.
The process in general was healthy and the membership made the right decision. I encouraged the losing candidates to get involved with in the membership.
How do you think history will judge Sunil Gulati's tenure as president?
All recent presidents have been able to build on their predecessors' successes and Sunil Gulati has done that. The organization has grown financially to a budget of over $150 million. Our player development programs have expanded, especially on the women's side.
Sunil has been a strong advocate for diversity, resulting in some outstanding women as independent directors on our board. Sunil was also able to bring in several outside consultants to work with the board of directors to improve corporate governance. Most of all, Sunil has also built relationships in Concacaf and FIFA and has positioned us to win the 2026 World Cup bid.
Above all, Sunil will be remembered for his hard work, passion and dedication to our national teams over the last 30 years.
What accomplishments are you most proud during your tenure as U.S. Soccer president (1998-2006)?
We built a culture and behavior of mutual respect and integrity within the Federation. We hired Dan Flynn with the goal of making U.S. Soccer a $100 million company. In 1998 our budget was around $12 million, and went to $50 million in 2006. We are now at $150 million.
With Dan we wrote the first five-year strategic business plan in the history of the Federation. The plan's framework is still used today.
We worked with MLS commissioners, especially Don Garber, to build a strong business and mutually beneficial relationship. We started working with Soccer United Marketing rather than an independent federation marketing company in competition with the MLS. We worked with Phil Anschutz to develop the National Training Center and Home Depot Stadium [now known as the StubHub Center] in Carson, California, and with the Hunt family to build Pizza Hut Park in Dallas.
After five years of lobbying, we were finally able to shrink board of directors from 46 members to 15 with three independent directors resulting in more relevant board involvement. We introduced electronic voting and a parliamentarian to control AGM's. We hired Bruce Arena in 1998. The 2002 World Cup success was critical for survival of MLS and growth of federation. We did not fire Bruce after three qualifying losses despite outside pressure.
The 1999 Women's World Cup laid the ground-work for women's participation in soccer world-wide, arguably, the most important women's sporting event in the 20th century.
Also during your tenure, the USA hosted the 2003 Women's World Cup on four-month notice after the SARS epidemic prevented China from hosting ...
I chaired the 2003 Women's World Cup. We used MLS stadiums and featured the Home Depot Center for the consolation and final matches. That event represented the great collaboration with MLS and provided the ground work for future events like Copa America. We lobbied with FIFA for prize money for the Women's World Cup, which came later.
Anything, in hindsight, you would have wanted to been done differently during your time as president of US Youth Soccer and/or US Soccer?
Although I tried, we failed to establish a collaborative relationship with the men's and women's players associations. Unfortunately, the relationship has been adversarial, probably with blame on both sides. We had to operate in crisis mode rather than try to create a win-win situation.
After the Federation and USYSA lost a complaint to the USOC by AYSO, the Youth Division had a choice to give up its corporate status and become a subsidiary of U.S. Soccer or stay independent and subject to competition from other and new organizations. They decided to remain independent. I tried to get them to become a subsidiary. If that had happened, I think the Adults would have followed, and we would not have the divisive atmosphere that we have today and would have had a united Federation.
Bob Contiguglia (right) with Columbia coach Joe Molder circa 1963.
Your introduction to soccer?
I started playing soccer along with my friends in Great Neck Junior High School, Long Island, New York. Our gym teacher had recently returned from Europe and introduced us to the game. Our community was adjacent to the United Nations headquarters at that time and the delegates' kids went to our school, so we had some good players. I was an All-Nassau County player in high school, went on to play at Columbia and was All-Ivy League. In both high school and college, my best friends were my teammates.
Fondest playing memories
Winning the Nassau County Championship in high school and losing to Penn for the Ivy League championship in College. Most of all, I still have relationships with my teammates today. … Playing with square-toed high-top leather shoes in high school and receiving "kangaroo" leather molded cleat shoes in college. I was in heaven.
Besides enjoying coaching youth, my fondest memories are attending the USSF coaching licensing courses. This was one of the most fun environments where you played soccer every day and had the camaraderie generated though joint suffering during the fitness training. Many of the coaches who attended my three license courses went on to have outstanding careers. One of my classmates was Bruce Arena. I have attended most of the United Soccer Coaches conventions over the last 30 years and enjoy seeing many of my fellow classmates.
What was it about soccer that prompted you to spend a lifetime in it?
The joy of playing and coaching the game has driven me to devote a lifetime to the game. As importantly though, are the personal relationships made in the journey. I admire the dedication and energy of the volunteer base of our sport especially on the youth side. They are all incredible people.
I have a close and personal relationship with both Hank Steinbrecher, Dan Flynn and their families. We all served together when I was president and I cherish our quiet dinners together. We share many experiences in the evolution of the Federation.
I enjoy youth coaching, which got me into this whole thing when my wife took me to an organizing meeting for the Cherry Creek Soccer Association. I have coached at all levels and have returned to coaching after my retirement from medicine and the Federation presidency. What excites me is the improvement in the quality of our players over the last 20 years. And with good coaching they get better each year.