U.S. Soccer election: State associations' concerns have to be taken seriously

State soccer associations are the backbone of U.S. Soccer, tasked with growing the game at the grassroots. Other USSF entities, from organizations focused on elite youth players to the pro leagues, rely on that grassroots work to develop the next generation of players, coaches, referees and even supporters.

So when states speak up to say they feel alienated within the federation, it’s something to take seriously. The question is how to address that alienation without alienating everyone else from sponsors to supporters. And, not least, national team athletes.

That’s the fault line that’s been exposed in Carlos Cordeiro’s effort to reclaim the USSF presidency from Cindy Parlow Cone. And while the settlement of the women’s national team’s lawsuit has given Cone and current federation leadership a much-needed PR boost, it might not win over any state associations that have firmly lined up in the Cordeiro camp.

And if you’re wondering whether Cone’s supporters (elite players, business partners, media) or Cordeiro’s supporters (state associations) are out of touch, the answer is both. And neither. People outside U.S. Soccer have never understood that the federation’s role is much greater than hiring coaches and 46 players to win the men’s and women’s World Cups. People inside U.S. Soccer don’t realize the PR and legal quagmires that Cordeiro created or exacerbated that may have cost the federation, tangibly and intangibly, tens of millions of dollars.

Most state association leaders have the common sense to avoid the PR nightmare of directly criticizing the U.S. women's national team settlement -- pending the not-insubstantial task of completing a CBA. But from the perspective of a state association, is that settlement a long-overdue statement for equality or just $24 million that will be going not to scholarships or facilities but into the pockets of those who had each claimed more than $470,000 in the fiscal year ending March 2020 and more than $250,000 the next year, the latter of which included a long idle period due to COVID?

Cone’s supporters can counter by saying she and her team limited the damage of the players’ suit. For one thing, that money will be paid out over four years. Also, the “legal” line item (paid to non-employees, not the in-house lawyers) on the federation’s 990 forms jumped from a typical $3 million in past years to nearly $19 million in FY 2020 and $9.7 million the next year, and while the federation still faces some lower-profile lawsuits from the NASL and Relevent Sports, that number will surely drop by a few million a year. And finally, Cone and Co., steered the federation through COVID pretty well. (See a year-by-year breakdown if you want to play with the numbers yourself.)

But, state associations may argue, why were the cuts so drastic? The five-year plan enacted pre-Cordeiro called for the federation to spend its assets down from $168 million to $50 million by March 2023, and that final number was ratcheted down to $42 million in the face of the legal bills. The updated March 2023 projection from the Annual General Meeting book: $102 million!

“Higher event revenue from Men’s FIFA World Cup Qualifying, slower return to programming due to COVID-19, and cost saving measures in FY’22 are the major drivers,” the AGM book says.

Getting more specific info than that is more difficult this year thanks to a change in how the AGM book lays out the budget. With a new financial reporting system in place, the budget presentation was far less granular than in the past. The federation held a Q&A via Zoom on Tuesday evening, and members and media asked specific questions about registration figures (flat), the Open Cup (breaking even, though spending and revenue are down a bit from nearly $1.5m pre-COVID) and referee programs.

The last was particularly unsettling for many members. On the surface, the budget in the AGM book was startling -- $2.6m in revenue against $895,000 in expenses, raising the question of why the federation would want to profit on a core development area. Federation staff raised the point that referee training is done in part through web services whose costs are rolled up into other line items, but questions about PRO further muddied the waters.

Granted, it’s often difficult to parse out numbers and neatly assign them to one entity or another. The men are projected to lose $13.6m in FY2023. The women are slated to lose $10.7m, and youth national teams are expected to lose a total of $14.3m. That alone accounts for the federation’s overall projected loss of $30.6m, not including the WNT settlement and any pay raises that may come out of new collective bargaining agreements. On the other hand, you could attribute a lot of the $60m-plus in sponsor and commercial income to the national teams. On the other other hand, you could attribute a lot of the Sport Development and Sport Performance spending to the national teams.

In any case, the state associations have plenty of valid concerns. But they’ve made one crucial error: Instead of reaching out to someone, anyone, who could have lent their concerns a fresh ear without disrupting the federation’s goodwill with the public and sponsors, they chose Cordeiro.

Make no mistake -- sponsors and supporters are where the federation makes the money to fund anything else. If they’re not on board, everything could end up on the chopping block.

The states have made a case to have their concerns raised to a higher priority. They have not made the case for Carlos Cordeiro.

15 comments about "U.S. Soccer election: State associations' concerns have to be taken seriously".
  1. Flo Dyson, March 1, 2022 at 3:52 p.m.

    When you say " State Associations" are you referring to the Adult only?

  2. Beau Dure replied, March 2, 2022 at 2:53 a.m.

    No - youth and adult

  3. Ben Myers, March 1, 2022 at 8:50 p.m.

    Nothing and nobody can make even a reasonable case for Cordeiro to rear his ugly head again!

  4. Wayne Norris, March 1, 2022 at 9:05 p.m.

    Nothing and nobody can make even a reasonable case for USWNT receiving a $24M settlement.

    state associations are correct to be concerned as should any program that may have benefitted from these funds.

  5. R2 Dad, March 2, 2022 at 9:14 a.m.

    I've never looked at the AGM book. Apparently referee fees of $2.6M are balanced by $900K in expenses. The monthly zoom ref education webinars are a great resource, so I'm seeing value there. But prior to covid, what was the rationale for $60 annual fees when referee numbers were suffering? And what is being done nationally to address the traditional, terrible turnover? Nothing? Show me coaches heads on pikes, as we know all the abuse comes from those bad apples. It's about time for a little shock and awe. Name and shame those blackballed, I say. Still, I didn't know refereeing was a net revenue generator. In these days of dwindling referee pools and referee abuse, I'd thunk fees would be reduced or waived for anyone under the age of 18, fer instance.

  6. Santiago 1314 replied, March 2, 2022 at 10:16 a.m.

    It's Ridiculous that anyone, who is Not a PRO Ref, should have to PAY to Be ABUSED.!!!

  7. Ben Myers replied, March 2, 2022 at 12:25 p.m.

    Officiating soccer is touted as a great way for young referees to make some money, but with no consideration whatsoever of the costs of entry, the course fee to become certified and the very basic kit of shorts, sox, shirt, whistle, cards and flags.  Want more referees?  make the barriers of entry lower!

  8. Jim Paglia, March 2, 2022 at 1 p.m.

    Does anyone else suspect Cordero is merely trying to jump back on the personal gravy train leading up to the 2026 WC? What justification could anyone make for returning to the failed leadership of the past? Admittedly, the members are faced with two choices, neither of which appear to be ideal. On the whole, the federation has moved forward in very challenging times under Cone and I'd prefer to see her prove she can learn from the past, seek better counsel and move forward. 

  9. Santiago 1314 replied, March 2, 2022 at 6:40 p.m.

    Jim,,, What was Failed.???  They(Both Cindy and Cordero) didn't Read Something from their Lawyers... as a Client... You ever read a Large Filing.??? 
    I think he would be a Better Manager of the Money... Which we Seemed to have Plenty of, until Covid... This is a Multi-million Dollar Enterprise.!!!
    But, I am Not Opposed to Cindy, except for the Fact that she has a CONFLICT OF INTEREST.
    She is Voting on Matters that affect her Pay-Check as a Director of Coaching for a PAY-TO-PLAY Youth Soccer Club.!!!
    That Doesn't Bother you.???

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, March 6, 2022 at 12:10 a.m.

    Santi, the Party is responsible for everything their attorney says and writes in a lawsuit. No excuses for this responsibility and potential liability. "Didn't read it"? Is that a joke? Responsibility comes with the office, not personal involvement.

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, March 6, 2022 at 12:12 a.m.

    By the way, no one in the modern era wins a Civil Rights case by insulting the plaintiff.

  12. John Mullen, March 2, 2022 at 3:42 p.m.

    Personal gravy train?  When Cordeiro was in office, the position was an unpaid one.  I don't know if it changed under Cone, but I doubt that it did.  You can check that out by viewing the 990s.

  13. Santiago 1314 replied, March 2, 2022 at 6:41 p.m.

    Currently UNPAID Position... There is supposed to be some sort of a Vote to make it 150k Paid a Year.... Sounds like a Good idea to me... "NO SIDE HUSTLES.!!!"

  14. Richard Groff, March 3, 2022 at 9:51 a.m.

    The same  State Associations and grassroot members like Club Soccer pay $4 million dollars to US Soccer every year.  With $100 million in the bank, the $4 million shoul be returned to these members, and invested in programs like referees and youth player developemnt  With $ 68 million from sponsors and $200 million from TV rights why is US Soccer taxing  the grassroots entities that develop the young players and develop the referees. A question that the current leadership does not answer. 

  15. Santiago 1314 replied, March 3, 2022 at 11:51 p.m.

    If it were "Returned" to the Players I would be All for it... But it would just end up in some DOCs Pockets, might as well as use it for some Youth National Team Programs.

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