When Carlos Cordeiro appeared on the U.S. soccer scene — out of nowhere, it seemed — to win the 2018 presidential election, I dubbed him the Phantom President.
I’ll confess, I’d never heard of him. I was quickly told that he had been working for U.S. Soccer for 11 years. Well those were 11 years during which I had been deeply involved on the American soccer scene at all levels. Attending many, many games — youth games, high school games, college games, MLS games, USMNT games. And attending events like World Cups, and major announcements and press conferences (many of them organized by U.S. Soccer).
That adds up to multiple chances to have encountered Cordeiro, or to have him pointed out to me. I never met him, his name never came up. He simply never appeared at games or soccer events.
A phantom indeed. The tag was justified, was amusing enough — until this routine absentee won the election and U.S. Soccer had elected the least soccer-qualified president it had ever had. I had known, and had interviewed most of the U.S. Soccer presidents since 1967. Whatever their faults, they had all been knowledgeable soccer people, devoted to the sport. Alan Rothenberg might be seen as an exception. His soccer experience was not extensive. But given his brimming enthusiasm for what he was doing and his frequent public appearances his comparatively slight soccer background hardly seemed to matter.
So, in 2018 we got a phantom president. Who promptly became more phantom-like than ever. No statements about what he planned for the Federation, no visions of an exciting future, nothing like that.
I was no longer surprised. I had learned that Cordeiro had a financial background. Very financial. Much too financial for my liking. A Harvard Business School grad, then a big-shot at Goldman Sachs. I have known only a few financial devotees and learned early that they are among the most boring people on this earth. They know money, of course. Anything else they may know about they will know only because it somehow involves plenty of money.
Eight of Cordeiro’s 11 years with U.S. Soccer had been spent as treasurer. A devoted money-man doing the accounts. That made sense, and I imagine he did a good job.
So much for Cordeiro in my estimation. But ... a phantom financier in charge of U.S. Soccer? Preposterous. I was not surprised when after two years his phantom presidency collapsed, he cowered into an appalling funk, abandoned his responsibilities, and took to the hills. Having accomplished nothing, and left undone important tasks that should have been settled. Worse, no doubt, his administration greatly upset the sponsors. Its attitude to gender equality was the issue. Coca-Cola accused U.S. Soccer of “unacceptable and offensive comments,” while “We at Volkswagen are disgusted by positions taken by U.S. Soccer ...”
I shed no tears for Cordeiro of course. He had deserted soccer, but I managed to feel happy about that. Obviously, I was less than delighted when this worrying phantom recently bounced back and announced that it was a candidate again. “I couldn’t believe it,” said Rothenberg, “How could he think he would be welcomed back?” What had initially struck me as an incredible act of impertinence by Cordeiro I began to view as simply an example of arrogant insensitivity.
This man who has disgraced both himself and U.S. Soccer now says “I am confident I can build a broad coalition that will be necessary to win.”
And where does that confidence spring from? I know more about Cordeiro now than I did back in 2018. I’ve learned that Cordeiro does indeed attend games. He has a liking for big-time games where he can mix and mingle with the sport’s high and mighty.
From all that celebrity-schmoozing, Cordeiro last year obtained a post as an advisor to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Unpaid ... which is worth pondering. Says Cordeiro: “I have a very unique position on FIFA ... that has given me a tremendous visibility around the world.”
Well, well, the phantom materializes, and now talks of being “extremely well respected ... at Concacaf and FIFA.”
Time to remind ourselves we’re supposed to be talking about soccer. American soccer. Does Cordeiro ever have anything to say about the sport itself? If he does, I have yet to hear it. Try this for a Cordeiro soccer-quote: “I always believed that soccer operations should be run by soccer experts.” A neat way of dodging the fact that Cordeiro himself is splendidly underqualified to do anything like that.
So he appoints a committee of soccer experts (the Technical Development Committee}. And how does he, the soccer ignoramus, decide who is an expert? Who knows. Maybe he calls in more experts. There is certainly more evasion. Cordeiro says “we” created the TDC, and “we” hired our first sporting director. We, not I.
During Cordeiro’s brief stint as President — before he ducked out — I had asked a knowledgeable soccer type what he thought of Cordeiro’s soccer knowledge. The reply: “I think he’s still trying to work out why 4-4-2 doesn’t add up to eleven.”
In soccer terms, Cordeiro is a joke. But his attempt to schmooze his way back into a job he has already disgraced is not at all funny. It is an insult to U.S. Soccer, to the sport and its many, many thousands of devotees in this country, most of them volunteers. It is also an insult to a long line of former presidents, those who, unlike Cordeiro, had genuine affiliation to the sport in this country.
Cordeiro, the phantom candidate of 2018, the beleaguered president of 2019, returned to phantomhood in 2020. And should have stayed there. But he’s back. In re-inventing himself – this time more incubus than phantom – he is capable of conveniently forgetting his deplorable past behavior.
I wonder just how far he can stretch his own blindness. Can he also shut out the awkward fact that the sponsors, who undermined him big-time in 2020, are still hostile? Deloitte has spoken out strongly, praising the work done by Cindy Parlow Cone (Cordeiro’s replacement after his flight, and his opponent in this week’s election) and vowing “Our future sponsorship decisions will be contingent on continuity of that progress.”
Anyone who votes this week for Carlos Cordeiro is voting for the man who ran away in 2020, leaving an ugly mess for Cindy Parlow Cone (who replaced him, and is his opponent in this week’s election) to clear up. That she has done, and can there be any doubt that her strong soccer roots helped her do so? So Cordeiro, without such roots, now judges it safe to stick his head above the parapet again. This is a miserable performance from Cordeiro.
He now sees himself as one of soccer’s most respected figures. He should certainly not be seen in that light in this country. It is to be hoped that the U.S. Soccer voters will not be taken in by his laughable delusion that currying favor with soccer’s world leaders can cancel out his appalling behavior within American soccer.
Assuredly, Carlos Cordeiro would not be a worthy President of U.S. Soccer. He has already demonstrated his unsuitability once. He should not be allowed a second try.
Surely there must be a group within USSF circles that have encouraged and/or support his running. Wonder who, or is it whom?
I guess we will know when the Votes are Counted.
The Fact that Cindy was able to get the USWNT to Settle for a 4 year Pay Out, was Smart, and I have to figure that was what it was going to Cost about the same, to Defend the Case to The Supreme Court.
I just wish she would Divest herself of her Paid Position as Director of Coaching for a Pay-to-Play Youth Club...
I agree the Federation should Pay the President a Salary and that should be their FULL-Time Job.!!!
Also, she should say she will Replace Ggg, if he doesn't Direct Qualify, and that She will Replace him IF we Do Qualify... (This Group of Talented Players Deserves MORE.!!!)
Agree on both accounts. How can one be on top of two organizations. Giving 200%, not just for either.
Definitely agree with a need for a more experienced manager too.
"From all that celebrity-schmoozing, Cordeiro last year obtained a post as an advisor to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Unpaid ... which is worth pondering. Says Cordeiro: “I have a very unique position on FIFA ... that has given me a tremendous visibility around the world.”
Little else needs to be said. He has an absolute disconnect from what is needed, and schmoozing with a corrupt Infantino and the FIFA board, along with their oligarch friends, only demonstrates the need to send him to the scrap heap and bar him from any future involvement with any US Soccer role - period.
Paul, you have stated, without pulling any punches, why Cordiero should not ever get a second go as president of US Soccer. Let's hope that many people voting in this election read it. To get broader exposure, have you tried to have this piece published in The Guardian? I'm sure the Guardian editors would be delighted to publish it, and broaden exposure to your thoughts.
This begs the question "who does vote for this position?". I mean really. Who votes?
Good read. Thank you. Agree with your conclusion. I see his candidacy as a test. A test of the where the USSF is at. If he wins, the organzation is still broken and has not evolved. If he loses, progress has been made. We are about to find out. Fingers crossed!
This is one of PG's articles I completely agree with. His assessments of Cordeiro put in readable prose are very spot on. Re: his comment on Alan Rothenberg, to AR's credit, he did surround himself with soccer-knowledgeabole peoplf, e.g. Hank Stienbrecher, to name but one of a literal soccer army people, and this was very evident when he campaigned in L.A. for the job, I know because I was there and I was amazed. As for Cordeiro (I believe than in Portugese, this translates to "lamb...") well, he probably hired some company to help his campaign, but wasn't it SG when he (SG) ran for the position - during one of the US Soccer AGM's, I believe in Las Vegas???
Lastly, I "second the motion..." that this article needs to be published in The Guardian, but right now, as soon as possible!!!
I would like to see a candidate who has a vision for restructuring USSF completely. USSF should get out of the business of supervising youth soccer, let high school federations oversee soccer for boys and girls as they do for other sports, and let the NCAA plus NAIA run soccer. MLS, USL and NWSL have their commissioners for operations. The main task of USSF should be overseeing the NTs for men and women, boys and girls from U - 14 up to the Senior teams. End of quarrels.
During Parlow's term, USSF and/or US Youth Soccer have terminated the Development Academies, leaving player development to clubs and leagues of clubs. It scares me to think about player development under the aegis of high school coaches. Nationwide they range from extremely well-quaified with deep knowledge of the game to NOT. The latter often take up soccer coaching jobs to earn a few more bucks after school, and knowledge of the game can be a rare happy coincidence. Further, the public school state associations, like the NCAA, place the most emphasis on American football, baseketball, baseball and sometimes hockey, revealing mind-boggling ignorance about the game. In other words, USSF has to exert steady influence to encourage high schools to upgrade the game to a more respectable level.
"rare happy coincidence". So funny--I needed that!
We can't have it both ways. The high visibility leadership position of USSF President is unpaid, although I am sure reasonable expenses like travel are covered. The USSF President needs income to eat, pay the mortgage, buy gas for the car, and live a life outside the purview of USSF.
On one hand, we have Carlos Cordiero, undoubtedly independently wealthy, a successful financier, and tone deaf to the issues facing soccer. He wore out his welcome with USSF once and resigned after perpetuating the mess that USSF was.
On the other hand, we have Cindy Parlow, VERY knowledgeable about soccer, with a track record of cleaning up some of the mess left behind by Cordiero and Gulati. Um, she has to make a living, and it happens to be within the world of soccer.
Given the choice, Parlow is obvious. Unless somebody wants to compensate her well with a job completely outside the world of soccer, let her continue her involvement with her soccer club. If there is a smell of conflict of interest in what she is doing for USSF, raise the issue. I would expect her to have enough integrity to identify conflicts of interest herself and mitigate their effects on USSF. Keeping her hand in a soccer operation also helps her remain current with soccer below the national team level, something the tonedeaf Cordiero and Gulati would never grasp.
@BenM. Ref.your earlier entry: I agree completely with your assessment of HS coaching; it mirrors my own experience.( Whether high schools and colleges should have athletic teams that compete in leagues is another subject; I imagine that readers know that this is uniquely American. As a lifelong teacher at rather elevated levels, and 60 years involvement in soccer at multiple levels, I prefer that sports be removed from academic institutions and be handled by clubs specific to the sport(e.g. basketball clubs, soccer clubs,etc. These clubs have a direct interest in coaching youngsters by qualified coaches,often retired senior team players,so that the best can move up to the senior team.)
I agree also that NCAA considers soccer as a "non-revenue" sport which is crammed into a ridiculously brief time-window, and rotating player participation due to 4years of "eligibility".
This is why I have long believed that American select teams are competitive globally up to 12/13 years age groups, but stagnate thereafter. The non-select teams and leagues should also not come under the purview of USSF, but be allowed as rec-leagues similar to softball for anybody, or local "leagues" for YMCA basketball. Cheers.
Come on Paul, tell us how you really feel! :-) As usual very well made argument, thanks for enlightening me. I did not know much about Cordero before, but you have certainly convinced me that he should not be President again.
I'd like our approach to men's soccer to take one of two approaches: either go win the World Cup or use American soccer to help develop healthy, active, educated, and creative young adults. We keep wallowing in some approach that tries to do both and it doesn't work. In this middling and muddied turf that U.S. Soccer is stuck in, families devote too many resources to training their kids to play an unattractive derivative of the beautiful game and most here in the U.S. think we are playing the beautiful game when we aren't. My preference is to foresake the trophy and cheer on the schools because I believe that kids' participation on school sports teams can be invaluable including college teams and I applaud the coaches (the good ones) who keep coaching even when parents come at them with criticisms born of distorted thinking. Either of these approaches calls for player development over money. Besides, there are as many bad travel coaches as there are less-than-great-soccer-minds coaching in the high schools, and school participation has attractive features built in. That said, we should be lifting the MNT WC trophy by now but we aren't, and I'm all-in if we're going to go for it. But we need to stop goofing around, just pick an approach and proceed with vigor. Just don't pick someone to run the USSF who is more interested in money than player development no matter what.
Was told a long time ago - to understand an originazation you need to follow the money. I think that Carlos is getting close to FIFA president to get ready to handle the money with the 2026 World Cup.
His association with FIFA alone should sound the alarm for anyone who wants to vote for him or it shows that their votes are tied to the money trail from USSF-FIFA.
Men like Cordeiro who have never smelled the grass or kick a ball are types who like the power and the prestige of this position....
No matter who you choose , I don't see are quality of soccer improve one Iota from this position, and likewise for Cone as well although she has played and has more experience.....
It would be refreshing to see someone like a Klinsman, or a Platini type who really played ball at the highest level come here for I think this type of person would , I think, focus more in terms of improving our game instead of posturing to look good in the boardroom