U.S. Soccer divided: Cindy Parlow Cone over Carlos Cordeiro in a close vote

Cindy Parlow Cone, the first woman to serve as U.S. Soccer president, won reelection for her first full four-year term when she defeated her predecessor, Carlos Cordeiro in a vote that was historically close.

The final margin was 52.9% to 47.1% -- a weighted vote of 785.12 vs. 698.26 -- in favor of Cone.

The former North Carolina star and Olympic and World Cup champion was elevated to president on March 12, 2020, following Cordeiro's decision to resign after the backlash to the federation's misogynist and sexist filing in defense of the gender discrimination claim filed by members of the U.S. women's national team in federal court under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The parties recently agreed to resolve the equal pay claims for a total of $24 million, contingent on the federation and women's players association agreeing on a new collective bargaining and approval from the U.S. district court handling the suit.

Cone gets a lot of credit for getting a settlement that allows the federation to move forward -- she received the endorsement of 32 WNT players on Friday -- and handling of the lawsuit in March 2020 should have been disqualifying for Cordeiro, no matter the circumstances of how no one at the federation flagged the controversial statements in the reply brief -- but she still won by a margin of only 5.8%.

U.S. Soccer's weighted voting system has favored the Athletes' and Pro Councils -- the "elites" -- over the Adult and Youth Councils -- the "grassroots" -- carrying the day for Cordeiro in 2018 when he eventually won by a margin of 58% on the third ballot in what started out as an eight-candidate race. But recent changes in federal law increasing the representation of Athletes -- from 20% to 33.3% of the vote -- and decreasing the shares of the three other Councils (Pro, Adult and Youth) from about 25% to 20% tipped the balance of power heavily in favor of the "elites."

Given the structural advantages, Cone should have won easily, but it shows how hopelessly divided the federation is that she prevailed in a historically close vote. If just three Athletes had switched their votes to Cordeiro, Cone would have lost.

U.S. Soccer elections (final margin of victory):
1990: 30.1%
1994: 7.2%
1998: 15.2%
2018: 58%
2022: 5.8%

In the last five contested elections, no victor has won with as little "grassroots" support as Cone did on Saturday. Indeed, she would have probably lost but for the change in representation that was approved four months ago ahead of the USOPC mandate to complete the restructuring by the end of 2021.

The effect of the changes -- decreasing the power of the "grassroots" folks even more -- produced a backlash, but so did her handling of the process to amend the by-laws, no easy task since any proposal required 66.7% of the vote to pass. (In the end, the amendments will have to be revisited in 2023 because they include a sunset provision.)

“I think there was the sense of disenfranchisement when you have the athletes moving to a third, which meant all the other councils went down by equal percentages,” Cone said afterwards at a media briefing.

The resentment of the "grassroots" folks went deeper than the Governance work, though. (Cone has countered that the Task Force allowed differing groups to learn to work together for the first time.) They have felt for a long time that they have been ignored. That's not a new issue, but it has been exacerbated in recent years by changes in the executive team in U.S. Soccer House and Covid.

Prior executives at Soccer House like Dan Flynn, Brian Remedi and Jay Berhalter, who all left in 2019-20, often came in for criticism for how they operated, but they had spent decades working with and delivering to the membership.

The new executive team has none of that and had tons on its plate with the women's lawsuit, CBA talks with the men and women, the work by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates on allegations of abusive behavior in the NWSL, building up its new commercial department and working with FIFA on the process of picking World Cup 2026 venues. Not to mention getting the national teams back off the ground with fans in the stands, in particular trying to qualify the men for Qatar four years after they did not go to Russia. But as good as Friday's board meeting (the open session) was -- the contribution from staff and some of the new Athlete board members was excellent -- far too little directly affected the day-to-day concerns of most state associations.

For CEO Will Wilson and CCO David Wright, this week in Atlanta was the first time they had a chance to meet many federation members in person due to Covid-19 restrictions over the last two years. It was almost a year after her elevation to president that Cone was able to attend a federation event in person, driving down from her home in North Carolina to the 2021 SheBelieves Cup in Orlando.

And Cordeiro's 13 years of service in the federation, first as an independent director but also as treasurer and then vice president and president should not be ignored. The work within the federation is all about personal relations -- most members are volunteers -- and Cordeiro -- a retired Goldman-Sachs executive with plenty of time and tons of energy -- has a personal touch that makes him an incredible campaigner. He said he would not have entered the race if he didn't think he had a chance to win, and he was right.

Cordeiro won an estimated 95 percent of the Adult vote, and U.S. Youth Soccer's board endorsed him on Friday night, touching off a frenzy on social media, where he is viewed very unfavorably, to say the least.

The election jitters of Cone supporters in recent days proved justified. She won re-election but it was a close call.

18 comments about "U.S. Soccer divided: Cindy Parlow Cone over Carlos Cordeiro in a close vote".
  1. Bob Ashpole, March 5, 2022 at 11:49 p.m.

    Now we will see if one person can make a difference in an organization governing amateur soccer but captured by business interests. Under USSF the sport loses everytime its best interests clashes with business interests. FIFA won't even see this as a problem.  

  2. Peter Kurilecz replied, March 6, 2022 at 12:05 p.m.

    With Cordiero recieving 95% of the Adult vote it will be interesting to see how Cone is able to maintain a balance between the Pro and Amateurs

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, March 7, 2022 at 12:14 a.m.

    You are mistaken. The power struggle is between players and businessmen.

  4. Ben Myers, March 6, 2022 at 11:24 a.m.

    This was not a historically close election. Any of the elections that required one or more rounds of runoff were closer. 

  5. Jim Paglia replied, March 6, 2022 at 1:45 p.m.

    Calling this a close election is a mischaracterization.  This was a first round victory for Cone which many of her predecessors can't claim. I think this is another example of Soccer America management showing a bias toward the "old guard", some of their personal cronies in the sport, the source of its corporate alliances. There was a time when SA was the unbiased voice of the best interests of the game. 

  6. Kent James, March 6, 2022 at 11:59 a.m.

    What did the youth and adults see in Cordeiro?  Am I missing something?

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, March 7, 2022 at 12:12 a.m.

    The people that vote serve business interests. They are not amateur athletes.

  8. Ric Fonseca replied, March 7, 2022 at 2:18 p.m.

    Folks, to say that the "youth" carried any wight, is simplistic since many folks will automatically refer to the "youth" tag as being KIDS under 18, while it is the ADULTS that "oversee" the youth/kid players are the ones siding with the adult crowd.  So to me to use the terms "youth" and "adults" were simply in favor and suported cordeiro....  So now that this is "historically" in the past, let's just say PLAY ON!!!

  9. oswaldo rodriguez, March 6, 2022 at 12:34 p.m.

    USSF continue to be mediocre!

  10. Scott Chaney, March 6, 2022 at 12:58 p.m.

    Man, I sure wish we could have fixed the presidential vote with "elite votes" counting more as Biden wouldn't be president. Isn't this election fixing? 

  11. oswaldo rodriguez replied, March 6, 2022 at 1:01 p.m. this moment even Centrel America federations have a better system

  12. Curt Wiley, March 6, 2022 at 3:47 p.m.

    Thank you for your coverage of this pivotal election.  I found no one else.  Also good that the election ended up right. 

  13. Jeanine Valadez, March 6, 2022 at 8:25 p.m.

    The right outcome.  The right process. 

  14. Santiago 1314, March 7, 2022 at 7:45 a.m.

    "Just Win Baby, Win"... Let's hope She Doesn't Screw it up, AND she should Drop her Paid Conflict of Interest Job... D.O.C of a Pay-To-Play Youth Soccer Club.!!!

  15. humble 1 replied, March 7, 2022 at 10:54 a.m.

    C'mon Santi, most the youth club votes went against her because she took a bunch of their votes away.  For me, she has demonstrated she can abstract herself from her youth role when acting in her federation role. Until this is a paid position, people need to keep their jobs to put food on the tabel.  We need a pragmatist, I think she is that. Taking care of the lawsuit, finishing a TV deal to pay for it.  This is OK.  There are more important things to work on.  Now we'll see what she can do unshackled.  Have a nice day!

  16. David Nelson, March 7, 2022 at 9:51 a.m.

    The power of a media selected narrative: "following Cordeiro's decision to resign after the backlash to the federation's misogynist and sexist filing in defense of the gender discrimination claim filed by members of the U.S. women's national team in federal court under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act." While it was out of tune with the politics of the day, it is notable that of the nine attorneys who contributed to the brief, seven were female. I guess those attorneys hated themselves and were sexist.  More likely, they were fired for their inability to read the room. Or, perhaps, they presented a viable legal argument supported by the fact that class representative Carli Lloyd testified that the women’s team plays “a different game” from the men “in the sense that men are bigger, stronger, faster” and that “there’s no denying the science in that regard.”  Although legally and factually correct, the politics and culture of the moment don't allow such a thing to be presented, so it must be labeled and kicked out the door.

  17. R2 Dad, March 7, 2022 at 4:45 p.m.

    I understand that the Grassroots people lost some power relative to what they had before. But is that all that came from this election? Is there a direction she will be going that would be different otherwise from CC? I'm missing the big picture conclusion here.

  18. Craig Cummings, March 14, 2022 at 11:45 p.m.

    Hey It is what it is. right or wrong. How many 0f us get to vote on this? NONE.

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