Commentary

Megan Rapinoe on Carlos Cordeiro, Sunil Gulati, USWNT and NWSL going forward

A member of U.S. national team programs since she was 16, midfielder Megan Rapinoe is a vocal advocate for equality on and off the field.

She has been involved in CBA negotiations with U.S. Soccer and in September 2016 followed the lead of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick by kneeling during the national anthem to protest oppression of gays and minorities. She was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Rapinoe, 32, plays for Seattle Reign FC in the National Women’s Soccer League and is among the most-capped players in the current U.S pool with 130 appearances.

Former president Sunil Gulati's work with the women’s programs during his tenure (2006-18). "It was pretty clear he made most of the decisions about everything. He was sort of the gatekeeper in a lot of different ways. Negotiations ultimately ended with him in most cases. That will be different.

"In some ways, that’s good and in some ways that’s bad. We always knew who was pulling the strings. But having people who are fully in charge of departments at all times and have their finger on the pulse and have a [staff] that will help them deal with that will ultimately be much more efficient and successful."

The election. "The process has been interesting. I actually didn’t know anything about the process. As long as I’ve been playing, there hasn’t been a process. I’ve only sort of been under Sunil. So it was interesting to learn about it and learn where the vote comes from, who has the vote, what kind of influence we have, and who we can talk to as a team and sort of everyone vying for who they think makes the best candidate.

"I think probably the way Sunil ran it in the beginning, it probably needed to be run that way. He was a visionary and did a very good job of growing the game. It's completely different from when I first started playing for the national team.  As it became so much bigger. I don’t think one person has that much bandwidth or really has that much expertise in every single area.

"It is definitely overdue. I don’t think one person at such a vast federation should be making all the decisions anyway. I don’t say this to knock Sunil. In many ways, he’s done a tremendous job and brought U.S. Soccer to great heights. But we need more checks and balances and we need expertise in every area. I wouldn’t know why we don’t have expertise in every area.

"There’s commercial interests, there’s developmental interests, there’s national team interests. So there’s a lot to consider."
 
Interaction with the Athlete Council. "We talked as a team and had met with the Athletes Council to express views and see where they were coming from and where we were coming from. We had a few informal chats with some of the candidates to see where they were coming from.

"Ultimately, we don’t have a vote. We can give input and express what we think, but ultimately they have to make their decision as a whole.
From our perspective, a lot of the time there’s the two national teams and the youth programs. There’s a lot that goes into that and there’s not really competing interests, but a robust bureaucracy of things that go on that the federation takes care of. Or is supposed to take care of, or is trying to take care of, and it’s either taken care of or not take care of.

"But obviously it’s a huge job and takes a big visionary to do that, someone pretty special to be the president.
Obviously, as it continues to grow and evolve -- MLS evolves, NWSL evolves, there’s the developmental side and the national teams on kind of the world stage – it’s going to take someone pretty agile in a lot of different areas."
 
New president Carlos Cordeiro. "We obviously had talks with Carlos a little bit leading up to this. He seemed very interested -- of course, he’s wasn’t going to seem disinterested – but it’s in everybody’s best interests to continue to grow the game, to continue to make it as equal and equitable as possible for both teams.

"I would envision us having, and I hope we have, a great working relationship. I’m sure there will be areas where we disagree but I’m looking forward to keeping that going and continue to fight for what we think is right. I think we’re very interested in holding everyone’s feet to the fire about all of these things.

"The business can be run better. Everything can be run better. The federation has the money to spend on very smart people in all of those positions and make it as good as they can be."


 
The influence of candidate Hope Solo. "She’s vocal about everything. A lot of the candidates don’t have intimate knowledge of the federation so it was difficult for them to make headway. Obviously, Eric [Wynalda] does and Kyle [Martino] has some and there’s Kathy [Carter] and Carlos. Hope as a [current] player has a totally different perspective.

"She’s never been shy about calling people out, whether it’s warranted or not, at times. There are things that need to be said and there are things that over the course of her career were not right that happened to her and that happened to our team. So in that respect it’s good to have that perspective and hold people’s feet to the fire like that"

What it will mean for the federation to hire a general manager for the women’s programs. "I really like that idea of having an over-arching president and a board, but also having specific GMs to run different sides of the business, because they are vastly different. You have the whole technical side and the commercial side and the marketing side, etc.

"The idea of having a GM across the board is very interesting in terms of checks and balances and a set of processes for everyone to be really clear on who we should go to or where we should go for certain things. It’s something I’m looking forward the federation fleshing out pretty soon."
 
Playing on turf. "I think all of our games this year are on grass. A bunch of them were slated to be on turf and that was changed. We’ll continue to try and hold everyone accountable and push it forward and grow the game. Hopefully, Carlos will be a great partner in that."
 
More resources needed to grow and strengthen NWSL. "You need money, you need investment. You need time and it’s hard to grow anything on a shoestring budget. To just have enough money for each year is not really viable. We do need big investment, whether that’s coming from the federation or MLS or some other entity or investor.

"I think partnering with MLS teams is great. Obviously, there are shared resources and shared brand image that can really benefit us. At times, it’s frustrating. You know, if it was bigger, people would invest more. Well, the reason it’s not bigger is because people aren’t investing more.
Nobody starts a business and has no investment. Obviously, there’s been a lot of investment. Hopefully going forward that will continue and owners like Utah [Royals FC] coming in is huge. It’s massive to have it set up in the right way and give it a chance to survive.

"I think the federation is going to have to stay involved for a while, which I don’t think necessarily is a bad thing."
 
What she will do when the playing career ends. "I’ll always want to stay involved. It’s weird saying this about the negotiations, but it’s been a pleasure to have been part of it all and help grow something and to understand the federation and how when I started it was way different. To see a Mal Pugh or Rose Lavelle or Sam Mewis come into an environment we really fought for and really helped create, we take great pride in seeing them benefit from that. It’s pretty cool.

"The league is doing really well and that’s something else we’ve really worked hard to support and help grow. It’s been so rewarding. So I would imagine being involved in U.S. Soccer in some way going forward will be just as rewarding."

3 comments about "Megan Rapinoe on Carlos Cordeiro, Sunil Gulati, USWNT and NWSL going forward".
  1. Wooden Ships, February 13, 2018 at 11:46 a.m.

    I thought Megan was wrong to protest while representing her country and the USSF impotent in its allowance. Having said that, I’m a big fan of her play. Great skill, vision and creativity, rare with US players, of either gender. I also see her as a very articulate and confident advocate for the women’s game. Our new President and future GM would be well advised to see Megan as a very valuable collaborater. 

  2. R2 Dad replied, February 13, 2018 at 12:46 p.m.

    Came to say exactly this, left satisfied.

  3. James Madison, February 15, 2018 at 7:41 p.m.

    Thoughtful commentary.  Megan obviously has a brain in addition to feet.  And more power to those who chose kneeling as a mode of protesting police misconduct.

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