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."
"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."