Daniel Workman, director and producer of the Daniel Workman
Soccer Show, was Eric Wynalda’s campaign manager in the 2018 USSF presidential election. The show, which debuted in April, airs five days a week and features a prominent figure in the
soccer world for every episode. Usually based in Mobile, Alabama, Workman has been on a European tour with microphone-in-hand to get a fresh perspective for his listeners. His stated goal on his
website is for the United States to become the greatest soccer country on earth.
SOCCER AMERICA: Give me your 30-second elevator pitch on why soccer fans should listen to the Daniel workman's soccer show.
DANIEL WORKMAN: Listen to the Daniel Workman show because you're going to get authentic and unfiltered opinions about American soccer and the global game, and hopefully, gain some knowledge, some inspiration, and some ideas on how we can become the greatest soccer country on earth.
SA: What was your inspiration for the podcast?
DANIEL WORKMAN: I didn't feel like there were topics that weren't really getting covered the way that I wanted to see them covered. With some of the stuff that I learned throughout the election, I felt like I was probably in some ways uniquely able to talk about. For me, it's also part of a longer game and the bigger view about this being just one piece of a bigger media project that has multiple people, shows, documentaries, and content. And I was like, I can't ask other people to do things I'm not willing to put my neck on the line and get it started.
SA: Who are your top three guests that you've had on the show so far?
DANIEL WORKMAN: Well, certainly Eric. That was a lot of fun. It was great to get him to talk about apple cider vinegar on the air. I wish I had a video of the night in question that we talked about it on air because that was hilarious. He demanded to speak to my wife after that because it was her idea.
Hope Solo was a great guest. Her candor was just refreshing. Status-quo and insiders haven't liked the things she said. But it's not that she's been wrong all the time. It's that they didn't want their dirty laundry out in public.
Gosh, there's been some really good people, to limit it to three would be a disservice to all of them. Hayley Carter and her behind-the-scenes work of being a coach on the staff of the Afghanistan women's national team was just –– whoa. Unbelievable. Jessica Rodriguez and her experience with the Puerto Rican women's national team. There's just been so many good conversations. It's been a joy to talk about them in so many aspects — players, coaches, etc. — the more you talk to people the more you realize people want to get better and get a federation that's going to help them get there.
SA: How did you first get into soccer?
DANIEL WORKMAN: Growing up in the South, it was primarily the American big three sports. I'm from the land of the Crimson Tide, and that's the big draw here. There was a soccer team at my high school, and that was actually my first encounter with the opportunity to play organized soccer. I didn't even play for the high school team.
My introduction to the game is because I had a buddy named Jeremy Wiley. When we were four years old, he and his family moved to Brazil to be missionaries. When I was 6, they came back for a visit and my dad worked at the church where they went to before they moved to Brazil. So when they came back they were staying at a house, and I came over to see them and I asked them, 'Do you want to play baseball?' They said, ‘No.’ I asked, 'Do you want to play football?' They're like, ‘No, not what you call football.’ So I asked them, 'Well what do y'all want to play then?' Because I just wanted to play. They were like, 'Well, you know, Americans call it soccer, but in Brazil it's called football.' And I'm like, 'OK, show me.' So that was my introduction to the game.
So the connection and the passion began. In the ‘94 World Cup, obviously once the U.S. got knocked out, I was rooting for Brazil because of my buddy Jeremy.
SA: How much was your support and interest in Eric Wynalda because of his position with promotion and relegation in the United States?
DANIEL WORKMAN: It was a large piece of it, for sure. I'll put it in simple terms. If Alexi Lalas or Landon Donovan were running for president, I wouldn't be working on their campaign unless they changed a bunch of their positions. My initial connection to Eric was a result of a shared philosophy of, 'Let's do the game the way the rest of the world does the game.' So it came out of shared values.
SA: What was working with Eric Wynalda like? What did you learn most about the American soccer community on the campaign trail?
DANIEL WORKMAN: In regards to the voting members of U.S. Soccer -- state associations and other members of U.S. Soccer they get to vote -- I met a lot of really good people and well-meaning people. I was a bit cynical towards them going into the process. On the flip side, I was very optimistic — naively so, I came to learn — about the Athlete Council. As much as it was great to meet a bunch of amazing people that work and volunteer and all of that at all levels of the game, the Athlete Council disappointed me as much as I was delighted and surprised by the state associations, for example.
I mean, it was really bad. And still, it is really bad. I watched them work hand-in-hand with Don Garber at the 2019 AGM. I was the only person from any of the campaigns, including candidates, who don't have a position, in U.S. Soccer at this AGM. No one else showed up unless they were an employee of U.S. Soccer or on a board position within U.S. Soccer. One of the reasons why I showed up is because I met some really good people. I wanted to look them in the eye and say, 'Thank you.'
SA: You talk about the angst in the lead up to the 2018 U.S. Soccer presidential election. Obviously, it came to a head when we failed to reach the World Cup and then when a status-quo candidate won the election. If an embarrassment like not making the World Cup can't galvanize reform — the kind of reform that some people want in the United States — what can galvanize change?
DANIEL WORKMAN: Okay, so a couple of quick points here. First is, it did galvanize enough support. The reason why the support didn't win is because of the way U.S. Soccer has structured and weighted the votes. Eric Wynalda received more [individual] votes for president of U.S. Soccer than Carlos Cordeiro or Kathy Carter. But he finished the first round in third place.
Knowing the numbers behind the elections in the way that votes get weighted, I am pretty confident in saying that Kathy Carter had six total votes in her favor. And she was in second place after the first round with 30 percent of the vote. Don Garber by himself basically controls the Professional Council. And that is worth over 25 percent of the overall vote in the election. And when you take into effect the control at a board-of-directors level, the ability — through Soccer United Marketing — to turn to those Athlete Council members and say, 'Look, play nice and we'll take care of you down the road.'
And now you see 50 percent of the Athlete Council with either leadership positions within U.S. Soccer or on World Cup broadcasting duties getting paid. People like, you know, Heather O'Reilly covering the Women's World Cup. Stuart Holden. Ally Wagner was already doing broadcasting, but there are others on the World Cup. So basically between these two councils you're throwing around over 45 percent of the overall vote.
So when you say, 'What's it going to take?' There was enough angst. People wanted change. They desperately wanted change. The problem was that the vote was rigged from the beginning because of the weighting of the vote. There are only two paths at this point to get change. One is legal and we know there are six, seven, cases, plus the Court of Arbitration in Sport case, that are all in some level of the process. So legal is one way.
The second is just a full-on consolidation of people who want change. By consolidation, I mean kids, adult amateurs and professionals coming together and saying, 'Look, the federation is not going to do this for us. Let's do it for ourselves,' and they come together. And secondly, it is probably going to have to also take at the same time — and what I'm about to say is going to suck for the players. If it was my kid and he was on a national team I would hate this for him. But it's probably going to take full-on boycotts of the U.S. men and women's national teams to create enough additional pressure to force people to come to the table. Because right now, they have consolidated power and have gotten the rules written in such a way that they're not threatened.
We can all hate certain things, and they can go, 'Yeah, we hear you, we know you don't like the fact that Gregg Berhalter was hired, and you say it's nepotism. We don't care. We all know that you don't like the idea that Jay Berhalter could very well become the next CEO of U.S. Soccer. We know that it's terrible. Even our own staff have come out and said that they don't think Jay Berhalter should be the next CEO. But we don't care, because we're going to do whatever we want to do.’
SA: Tell me about the petition you created with small clubs to stop the implementation of promotion and relegation within the United States which you gave to FIFA. What was that process like, and what did you learn throughout it?
DANIEL WORKMAN: I would not have really done any work with Chris Kessell on that effort had we not already known that there were a lot of people in the grassroots set-up with American soccer who wanted change. I learned that during the election process. I just felt like, you know, here's something we could do to support those efforts.
I always wondered why there were only two clubs [Miami FC and Kingston Stockade FC] on that Court of Arbitration in Sport case in the first place. Why didn't we go get 100, or 200? The more we do things where we actually come together, and say, 'Hey, I believe in this, I want to help,' the sooner we can get to a place where American soccer can start to see some improvement.
SA: How long did it take and how many clubs did you eventually get to sign on? At the end of the day, did you feel optimistic or pessimistic?
DANIEL WORKMAN: We got over 300 clubs in about eight weeks. That was with no paid media — it was all organic with people spreading the word. I felt like if we had put money behind it and treated it like a political campaign — more than just a grassroots kind of campaign — we would've topped 1,000 clubs within 10 weeks. But we were also looking at the fact that there was going to be a hearing coming up, so we were also trying to keep in mind having some impact on the hearing. We hit 300 around that time and we haven't really continued to push it that much just because it was really geared towards that case.
SA: A lot of people in the American soccer community complain about promotion and relegation folks who take to Twitter and sometimes act like trolls. What do you have to say to that? Because obviously, the pro/rel movement has borne fruit in tangible ways in terms of this petition.
DANIEL WORKMAN: Personally, I try not to be disrespectful. I try to network. I try to build relationships. Those relationships and that networking has paid off for me. I'm a big believer in social media, sharing ideas, networking, and connecting. Personally, I don't like personal attacks. I can disagree with ideas. I don't hate Carlos Cordeiro. I don't hate Don Garber. When I mention names, I might be frustrated with things they’re doing. I may be critical of you and your decisions, right? For me, it's not personal. It's more about principle. No matter what your personal philosophy is in terms of being for or against doing soccer the way the rest of the world does soccer, I think sometimes both sides cross that line.
SA: What did you think of the Glassdoor reviews of the U.S. Soccer Federation?
DANIEL WORKMAN: I was not surprised at all. I understand that as a business owner, you never want to have a disgruntled employee just go off and say stuff about you. I certainly had clients in the past where we saw things one way and they saw them a different way, and I get it.
But if I feel like we did what we said we were going to do and we feel good about the work we did, I just kind of let these things go. When I look at the Glassdoor stuff, I don't read that as people hating U.S. Soccer. The reviews I read came across as, 'If I come out in public, I'm screwed,' but anonymously, this is a cry for help like —we need to do better. If they put their name to it, they'll get fired. That's how I took it.
Again, for me, the criticism is very similar to how I think criticism should be. You want to do this from the perspective of, 'How can we get better?' not just, 'I'm angry because I don't like you.' There's certainly some of that in the Glassdoor reviews, like, 'I don't like this person,' or, 'I don't like this, or I don't like that.' You definitely see some anger there for sure. But the overall sentiment that I kept reading was like, 'We should be able to do better. Why can't we get better? Let's take this moment to get better.'
SA: Who do you think should be the next U.S. Soccer CEO?
DANIEL WORKMAN: In my limited interactions with Jay Berhalter, I felt like he was very smug and very arrogant. I asked him at the 2019 AGM, 'How do you get unregistered and unsanctioned players and leagues to register with the federation?' His response back to me was, 'The U.S. Soccer crest.' That was the answer. So I asked, 'Can you explain that?' And he said, 'Well, there's so much equity in the U.S. Soccer shield. That's the reason why they'll still want to join.’ My comeback was, 'They're not sanctioned now. It's not working now. Like, 'Why do you think that's going to change their mind? I didn't like that answer. I didn't like that response.
I would say that it would be hard for me to hire him if I were in the position of Carlos Cordeiro because I would be looking at where we are as a country and going, 'You've been here for a long time and I don't have confidence that you can get us where we need to go.'
In terms of who I would hire? I don't have a name, but I would want someone from the outside. Somebody that could inspire, change, reform, and someone who could actually build a strategic plan that could be executed on a day-to-day basis that could fix a lot of our issues and get us going in the right direction.
Carlos does not like to do interviews. He doesn't like to do media, he's just not a fan of that. And that's fine, that's personal preference. But you do need someone to do that, and I think that would be a goal that I would look at, CEO-wise. But I would want somebody from the outside.
SA: Do you have any last words that you want the Soccer America readers to see when this article comes out?
DANIEL WORKMAN: I would go back to this: I believe we can be the greatest soccer country on earth. Everyone knows we're not that. But we could be. And I think we should be. And we should never settle for anything less than striving to reach our best potential. So get involved. Work with your local club, support your local club, work in your state association, take your kids to matches, learn what's going on and how you can help. We have doctors and lawyers and business owners all across this country whose families are involved in the game who love and support the game.
We've got enough smart people who are passionate about the game in this country. Maybe they were born here, maybe they weren't, maybe English isn't their first language. But their first language or their first passion is football, it's soccer. And we need all of them to join up together and speak up and get involved so that we can become the greatest soccer country on Earth.