The backdrop to the election: a new Federal law that will transform U.S. Soccer's voting and governance structure.
Currently, the voting power held by amateur athletes and their representation on the board of directors and governing committees of national governing bodies like U.S. Soccer is a minimum of 20 percent. The Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020 -- Senate bill 2330 -- changes that to one-third.
In practical terms -- those who have followed recent U.S. Soccer elections will appreciate this -- that means the share of the Athletes' vote will rise from 20 percent to 33.3 percent, and the share of the other three councils who hold equal representation will fall from about 25 percent to about 21 percent. (The remaining vote -- about 5 percent -- consists of individual votes held by such individuals as board members and Life members and those organizations on the At-Large Council.)
Voting control. In 2018, the Athletes' unanimous support for Carlos Cordeiro was the difference in his election as U.S. Soccer president in a crowded field of seven candidates. As a bloc with 33.3 percent of the vote, the Athletes will only need the support of less than 80 percent of a single council to control 50-plus percent of the vote.
Currently, three of U.S. Soccer's 15 voting members on the board of directors are athletes: Chris Ahrens, Carlos Bocanegra and Lori Lindsay. (The secretary general -- Will Wilson -- and immediate past president -- Cordeiro -- are non-voting members of the board.)
To meet the requirements of the new federal law, the board will likely be expanded to 18 voting members with the addition of three new Athletes, one of them being the U.S. Soccer athlete representative on the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee Athletes' Advisory Council (currently Aly Wagner). Any action to change the composition of the board would require approval of the National Council.
(One change in the law: It eliminates the requirement that athletes need to have participated in international competition in the last 10 years to serve in representative capacities.)
Response to women's gymnastics scandal. The main purpose of the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020 is to strengthen athlete protection in the wake of the women's gymnastics scandal involving Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics national team doctor currently serving a 60-year sentence in a U.S. penitentiary in Florida while also being sentenced to terms totaling 215-300 years in Michigan state prison. He was accused of assaulting at least 250 young women, including U.S. gymnastic stars.
Other key provisions of the law:
-- Mandatory funding of $20 million annually to the U.S. Center for SafeSport;
-- Congressional power to dissolve the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics Committee's board of directors and decertify national governing bodies like U.S. Soccer;
-- Formation of a 16-member “Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics and Paralympics" to recommend reforms for the U.S. Olympic sports movement and the 1978 Amateur Sports Act that governs it. That report will be due July 1, 2021.
At loggerheads with the IOC. The measures that give Congress the power over the USOPC and NGBs put the law on a collision course with the International Olympic Committee, which could ban U.S. sports from international competition for violating the Olympic Charter, which bans governmental inference in national Olympic bodies like the USOPC.
(The measures giving Congressional power over the USOPC and NGBs won't take effect, though, until after the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The wording might be changed to meet IOC approval as part of the commission recommendations.)
The Senate passed the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020 by unanimous consent on Aug. 4 -- the sponsor was Kansas senator Jerry Moran -- and the House of Representatives cleared the bill by voice vote on Oct. 1, sending it to Presidential Donald Trump for his signature.
Without his veto, the bill became law on Tuesday.
Up in 2021:
Up in 2023: