On Tuesday, new U.S. Soccer president
Cindy Parlow Cone spoke with media members for the first time. It coincided with the introduction of new CEO and secretary general Will Wilson, whose appointment was announced on
Cone was elevated to president on March 12 following the resignation of Carlos Cordeiro. It came the same day as MLS and the USL shut down their leagues and U.S. Soccer canceled men's and women's national team games scheduled for March and April as the seriousness of the novel coronavirus pandemic became apparent.
Cone, who was first elected as vice president in 2019, said she wholeheartedly accepted the responsibility into which was suddenly thrust.
"This has been an interesting and challenging time for everyone," Cone said. "When Carlos resigned just a mere 10, 11 days ago, I understood immediately that I would have to step up and lead as the president of U.S. Soccer. Those of you that know me well know this is not a role I was seeking, but I believe sometimes we are asked to step forth to do unexpected things."
A good portion of the conference call on Tuesday concentrated on the federation's lawsuit with women's national team players and the sexist legal filings that prompted Cordeiro's resignation. But it is clear that the impact of the pandemic on the federation's revenues will take up a lot of the immediate attention of Cone and Wilson.
"We are working through that very diligently," said Cone. "We have people from the board as well as staff members working on different scenarios. Obviously, our first priority is to ensure the safety of all of our staff and our players, so that was first and foremost. Now that we have a better understanding of what things are looking like in terms of the Olympics, that will help formulate what we need to do. This is affecting every business, regardless of what business you are in. U.S. Soccer is not immune to this. So I expect U.S. Soccer will take a significant hit with the coronavirus as we are not able to hold events."
More than half of the federation's budgeted revenues for 2020-21 -- $52.7 million -- come from two sources -- contracts with Nike and SUM. Asked if the federation would be receiving less funding, Wilson said, "That's currently unclear. We're not sure yet."
Cone said resolving the lawsuit with the members of the women's national team is one of the top priorities.
"I don't think a trial is good for either party or for soccer both in this country or internationally," she said. "Our women's team is the best team in the world. I am hopeful we can find a resolution before this goes to trial."
The jury trial is slated for May 5, but the current crisis has forced the U.S. district court in Los Angeles to close most in-person proceedings. On Monday, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner advised both sides he would rule on the motions for summary judgment filed by both parties without hearing oral arguments. In the meantime, no settlement talks are scheduled.
"Right now, there's not one that's on the schedule, but we are hopeful we can schedule one very soon," said Cone. "I think it's challenging right now with the backdrop of coronavirus. I'm a big believer in getting people in the same room and finding resolutions. In the meantime, we may have to settle with jumping on phone calls. I'm hopeful this will be the case in the coming weeks."
She admitted that getting the lawsuit behind everyone is only the first step.
"The next step is a long process," she said. "I think a lot of damage has been done and I think we are going to have to rebuild that trust and rebuild the relationship. It's not going to happen overnight. It's going to take a lot of effort and time and energy from the U.S. Soccer side to rebuild that trust, not only with our U.S. women's national team players but with our fans and everyone engaged in the sport."