The United States losing to Trinidad and Tobago has opened up the opportunity for more voices to be heard within United States soccer. For the first time since 1998 the United States Soccer Federation will have an election for their president. Since 1998 Sunil Gulati, the current president has run unopposed. With the United States missing the World Cup this year, we are finally seeing some competition and new plans coming to light for the United States. As of right now there are three candidates who have confirmed they are going to run. Former US international Eric Wynalda, Boston based attorney Steve Gans, and Paul Lapointe Northeast United Premiere Soccer League (UPSL) Conference Manager. Wynalda, and Gans both spoke at the National council meeting for United States Adult Soccer. Gulati attended but did not speak, and Lapointe did not attend due to traveling to a youth soccer tournament.
While Sunil Gulati hasn’t officially announced he will be running again, expect the current most powerful man in CONCAF to run once again. I’m going to give a little background on these men and the plans that they have for the future of United States Soccer.
Let’s start with Eric Wynalda. Wynalda is probably the most recognizable name on this list, and probably the most extreme. Often labeled as a bad boy of US Soccer for publicly criticizing United States soccer. Wynalda was the first ever American player in the Bundesliga, he has a great passion and love for the German game spending a couple weeks in Germany a couple of months ago observing their infrastructure while he was mulling over the idea to run. Wynalda has long been a proponent for promotion relegation for US Soccer. But he has yet to outlie the exact plan. Wynalda also said he will “tear up the deal” in reference to the deal that was made in April of 2017 where the USWNT are paid less than the USMNT. Another unique thing that Wynalda has proposed that no other candidate has mentioned would be to change the MLS calendar, and switching to the FIFA schedule, which typically runs from August- May. He wants to find a time in the calendar where the MLS cup does not interfere with other major sports which quite frankly are more popular than the MLS right now. Finding the right time in the calendar could be critical to growing the viewership, and overall the league. To be fair, at this point Wynalda has been pretty vague in terms of his exact plans for the presidency, but look for those details to come out as we get closer to the election date.
Next up Steve Gans, the Boston based attorney. Gans is more like Gulati in the sense that he is a business man first, rather than a soccer man first, unlike Wynalda and later mentioned Lapointe. Gans is a man who was very instrumental in bringing 1994 World Cup games to his hometown of Foxboro, Massacchutes. Gans believes that most of the work that needs to be done is within the youth development academy systems. Particularly the pay to play system that is in place in the United States which differs from Europe. In order to go to a big club or academy here in the United States is extremely expensive which hinders the ability of low income families to get into these academies. Many young talents are falling through the cracks because of this system. Gans has consultant roles to several clubs in European soccer which he thinks would be a big asset to United States Soccer. Another note, Gans has not taken a side on the promotion and relegation debate.
Lastly is Lapointe. Lapointe is currently the Northeast United Premiere Soccer League (UPSL) Conference Manager. Lapointe has deep roots within youth soccer. He formed the Massachusetts Youth Indoor Soccer League where there are currently 210 teams in it.
Lapointe like Wynalda is a true blue blood soccer guy. He has been in the youth systems his whole life and puts an emphasis on youth and opening up the game for them. Right now there are too many walls within the youth soccer system and he “wants to open those walls” and make the game more inclusive for everybody. Like Wynalda, Lapointe also wants the Women’s national team to receive equal pay to the men for representing the National Team. He also wants to institute a Women’s US Open cup to expand their game, and bring more media attention to the Women’s game. Lapointe is also another one of the candidates that supports promotion relegation. His plan would start with local state teams, UPSL, NPSL, and PDL to be promoted up to the NASL, or the USL first. Then hopefully break into the MLS from there. Also to note Lapointe on his twitter has mentioned he would not be against working with Wynalda in a CEO/ President role should one of them win the election. Wynalda has not commented on that. Unfortunately for Lapointe he probably does not have the resume, or the accomplishments to pose a serious threat to win the election.
With every passing day we learn more and more about these candidates and their plans to United States Soccer. Stay tuned here for all the updates.
Writer: James Hofer
Photo: India Times