November soccer election takes on new importance

U.S. Soccer will hold elections for president and vice president at its 2021 National Council Meeting on Feb. 27.

Before that largely virtual event, another election will take place. U.S. Soccer Athletes' Council will hold an election to fill up to 10 spots on its council. The nomination window extends through Oct. 26, and the voting window will be Nov. 2-16.

Despite being public figures, many with huge social-media presence, the election for athletes has usually been held without any fanfare.

Athletes are eligible to vote if they represented the USA in an international championship within the last 10 years or simply represented a national team in the last two years.

Next Gen United for change. The current composition of the Athletes' Council is 19 members -- 10 men and nine women, one Latino, one Asian and no Blacks. A slate of five young players is trying to change that.

Next Gen United includes:

-- University of North Carolina junior Brianna Pinto, who is considered one of the top pro prospects in the women's college ranks and spoke on behalf of the USA at the 2018 FIFA Congress, where the USA, Canada and Mexico were awarded hosting rights to the 2026 World Cup;
-- Harvard University freshman Smith Hunter, a regular call-up to the current U.S. U-20 women’s team national team;
-- Birmingham Legion's Mikey Lopez, who represented the USA at the 2013 Under-20 World Cup and attended North Carolina;
-- Philadelphia Union keeper Matt Freese, who played two years at Harvard before signing a Homegrown Player contract and is a member of the current U.S. U-23 men’s national team; and
-- Nick Mayhugh, who played for Radford University and the U.S. 7-a-side national team -- he set an American record with 11 goals at the 2019 International Federation of Cerebral Palsy Football World Cup -- and is also a track star.

Pinto and Hunter are Black, and Lopez is a Latino who grew up in McAllen, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border. Next Gen United's average age is 22 years old, contrasting with the current representation of mostly retired athletes.

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.

Athletes Council
Up in 2021:

Gavin Sibayan
Brian Ching
Brad Guzan
Stuart Holden
John O’Brien
Jonathan Spector
Lauren Holiday
Lori Lindsay
Heather O’Reilly
Aly Wagner 

Up in 2023:
Chris Ahrens
Yael Averbuch
Carlos Bocanegra
Landon Donovan
Kevin Hensley
Ali Krieger
Alex Morgan
Nick Perera
Becky Sauerbrunn
Lindsay Tarpley

3 comments about "November soccer election takes on new importance".
  1. R2 Dad, October 16, 2020 at 11:20 p.m.

    Congressional power to dissolve the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics Committee's board of directors and decertify national governing bodies like U.S. Soccer;

    What is this all about? What is the logic? Why is this included, and Who is benefitting?

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, October 16, 2020 at 11:52 p.m.

    Reform is usually a response to situations where laws are being ignored. USSF is a national governing body becausee of a statute. USSF is supposed to comply with the statute in order to keep its status, but USSF has ignored the statute by treating professional athletes as amateur athletes to deprive amatuer athletes of their representation on boards and committees. The US Olympic Committee has been ineffective in enforcing the law, so now we have Congress getting directly involved.

    Who is benefiting? Amateur athletes.

  3. R2 Dad replied, October 16, 2020 at 11:55 p.m.

    Thank you for the explanation, Bob.

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