Will Wilson on Latino engagement, MLS and SUM and labor relations

U.S. Soccer's search for a replacement for longtime CEO and secretary general Dan Flynn has been going on for several years, but it took on new urgency in September when Flynn stepped down.

A new search firm was also hired and candidates were interviewed in early December.

Will Wilson says he did not enter the picture until he contacted the search firm shortly before the holidays. On Monday, Wilson, the co-head of the NFL division of sports representation agency Wasserman and the uncle of former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, was hired as the chief executive officer and secretary general.

After a gap of more than six months, Flynn's position was filled.

Wilson was born in England and spent his childhood living in different countries as he followed his father, an offshore oil engineer. He attended high school in Mexico City, graduated from Kenyon College and did his graduate work in Monterrey.

Asked how his experience working in Mexico for the NFL and as a Spanish-speaker can help engage the huge Latino community in the United States that has often felt neglected, Wilson said, "I think a huge priority in terms of growing the game, growing the interest, and making soccer the preeminent sport in this country, is really uniting the various soccer demographics across the country. There's an old saying that 'demography is destiny.' There's no denying the census and population in this country. We're doing a disservice to the soccer ecosystem if we're not communicating with all the folks, all the nationalities, who live in this country who love soccer. Clearly, the Mexican demographic, Hispanic demographic is a big part of that."

Wilson's background in soccer includes four years at MLS and SUM, whose influence on U.S. Soccer affairs had come under considerable attack from critics. U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said Wilson's experience was a plus.

"Soccer is a very complex game and complex business," she said. "I think it would be very difficult for someone to come in from the outside not knowing that business to step in and hit the ground running. I think that's a plus on our side for Will."

Wilson agreed.

"My experience at SUM will actually be a big assist to the process," he said. "As men and women who report on sport, understand it and love it so deeply, you know it's a complicated game, all the various tournaments, all the various competitions, the way leagues work. Soccer is the only sport in the world literally with infrastructure in every country. It's a complex landscape."

Wilson's immediate past was spent representing NFL players so he is familiar with labor relations, the dominant issue for the federation, which has been without a collective bargaining agreement with the men since 2018 and must agree to a new one with the women's national team as part of a settlement of its lawsuit.

"I think that is experience I have that will be very beneficial quite frankly," he said. "I've been on both sides of the table if you will, at the league level for the last number of years representing athletes. I understand that athletes view the world differently. I think I've learned how to meet them where they're at, so to speak, the things that are important to them. Obviously, American football is a different sport than soccer, but there's a lot of common threads if you will on the things that concern athletes generally as it relates to their careers, the things that are important in going forward."

5 comments about "Will Wilson on Latino engagement, MLS and SUM and labor relations".
  1. Derek Mccracken, March 25, 2020 at 9:26 a.m.

    Wilson is saying the right thing about finally effecting a proper integration of the USA hispanic population. Wilson's comment in this article: " We're doing a disservice to the soccer ecosystem if we're not communicating with all the folks, all the nationalities, who live in this country who love soccer. Clearly, the Mexican demographic, Hispanic demographic is a big part of that." 
    Obviously, as they say, "the proof is in the pudding" and "I'll believe it, when I see it". We've heard really nice words over the years from US Soccer about how the US hispanic community's players, coaches and management level would be better-integrated, but it's never happened. So, I hope US Soccer understands if its constituents go into this new phase / new regime with a bit of skepticism. 

    I really do hope that Wilson is the person who'll go down in US Soccer history as the one that was able to effect momentous, positive change with the national, hispanic community which was a big impetus for the national program to take a huge step forward in global respectability and world raking of its youth and senior national teams. 

  2. Ric Fonseca replied, March 25, 2020 at 1:30 p.m.

    Senor D. McCracken:  I
    From the first days I "rejoined" playing our sport in the early '60s through the various "ethnic leagues" in the Oakland/SF Bay area, then in college, finally cementing into the sport since the early '70s to the present, I've been hearing almost exactly what Mr. Wilson believes to be a fact. I, and many other Latinos/Hispanics/Mexicans have been at the battlefront, in the trenches, and to this very day we hope (and hope, as they say, springs eternal) that those former and current head honchos wake up and smell the cafe brewing and the roses blooming.  But, as they say out in our communities, "ya lo veremos, dijo el ciego..."  (we shall see, said the blindman..."    

    (Oh and BTW, are you related to Hugh McCracken formely AC of UCLA's varsity soccer team of the early 1970s, now a resident of RI???)   

  3. Eric Jensen, March 25, 2020 at 4:35 p.m.

    Mike, Thanks for  asking the question! One only needs to look as far as the make-up of the YNT teams over the last 3-5 years or so, and then look at the overall make-up of the DA teams. You guys made the point a while back that one of the big accomplishments of the DA system was to significantly increase Latino particpation rates at a higher level. Agreed. But that increase hasn't made it all the way thru the system... What's Wilson going to do in tangible terms? In the 190 miles from Baltimore to New York City, there's almost 30 u15+ DA clubs, which inlclude some of the poorer performing clubs in the country. In the 220 miles from Santa Barbara to San Diego, there are only 14 u15+ DA clubs. That might be a place to start...

  4. R2 Dad replied, March 25, 2020 at 5:30 p.m.

    Eric, not sure on the point you are making. Are there too many DA clubs on the east coast, thus the competition level is too low, or not enough clubs in Cal-S thus not enough opportunity? I don't follow the DA that closely, other than to notice the smaller clubs often struggle at the bottom of their tables and players are often migrating from one DA club to another (from BU14-BU19) for unsepcified reasons I've never seen addressed.

  5. humble 1 replied, March 26, 2020 at 1:10 p.m.

    Since Wilson was talking 'demographics' that is TV speak for 'viewers'.  Coming from a marketing background this would be normal.  Getting boys Latino youth participation into the mainstream affiliated leagues giving them a pathway to the Y/MNT, that is another matter all together.  Today many latino youth play in unaffiliated pirate leagues outside the scope USSF and the DA, to U14.  Then many latinos play for their High School's which ironically, considering High Schools own the bulk of the soccer facilities for high school youth in the USA, is also not in the scope of the USSF and is not even allowed by the boys DA.  No language or education credential will get Cone or Wilson the background or experience needed to move the needle in the boys latino world.  So if you don't see hires that do, you won't see change.  

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