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What US Soccer presidential candidates are saying about the women’s game

A lot of candidates, a lot of statements. Here’s a focus in on one key issue.

Seattle Sounders v Vancouver Whitecaps Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The US Soccer presidential race is attracting contenders faster than a free sample table at Costco attracts shoppers. Most candidates have tried to walk the line between explaining their broader vision for the federation while not drilling down too much and also separating themselves from the current administration. There’s obviously been a lot of focus on the MNT and things like establishing a technical director position to vet coaches in the wake of the men’s inability to qualify for the World Cup, but many candidates have also been including the WNT in their statements - as well they should, since this country is represented by both the men and the women. But what are the candidates saying about the WNT, and what do they reveal about their own knowledge of the women’s side of things? Let’s take a closer look at what each candidate has said so far about the women.

Paul Caligiuri

Caligiuri has spoken about the USWNT but so far in a general way. He supports them, but doesn’t yet have a lot of detail, which may emerge later as he makes further statements or gives more interviews. He’s called for the WNT to “go back to back World Cups,” which presumably entails giving them the support to do so.

And on the equal pay dispute, there’s this from him: “The women who spoke out are our heroes. These issues can be massively avoided for the better of the game.”

Carlos Cordeiro

You can see Cordeiro’s platform here, but the part relevant to the WNT is this:

“Our Women’s National Team program has set the bar for what we can achieve on the world stage. For our women to continue their success, and for our men to excel at the same level, all of our National Team programs deserve world-class coaches, facilities and infrastructure consistent with the highest competition.... I believe we can and should host the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2027.”

Corderio also mentions NWSL, which not every candidate has done when bringing up the ways that USSF is crucial to the success of the women’s game.

Steve Gans

The “Issues” section of his website doesn’t address any points dealing with the WNT specifically other saying he’d give the women “proper respect and due attention.”

He has said he thinks Gulati handled the WNT labor dispute badly by letting it get drawn out, especially in the media.

Paul Lapointe

Lapointe is an equal-pay guy and listed it as a platform issue:

“Equal base pay for our women’s national team athletes. If you are ask [sic] to represent our national team you should be paid equal to our men regardless of the income levels. Our national teams should be a combined effort on all fronts.”

There’s also this tweet:

Kyle Martino

Pretty strong opening salvo from Martino on women’s issues here:

“Our women are World Cup winners. Why are they playing on artificial surfaces? Why are they sleeping in beds with bed bugs? Why aren’t they paid the same as the men? And if you look at the U.S. soccer structure, why don’t women have positions of influence? There are no good answers to these questions.”

Michael Winograd

Some detail from Winograd on his website:

“Women’s soccer must be treated equally. Full stop. Forcing the US Women’s National Team to play on substandard fields, travel under sub-standard conditions, or accept lower pay is absolutely unacceptable. Arguments to the contrary based on revenue flow are not only factually misleading, but they ignore and contradict the mission and spirit of US Soccer. What’s more, the budgetary increase necessary to provide equality is only a fraction of the current total spend on our National Teams.”

Winograd also spoke more extensively on the women in an interview with the Philly Inquirer that shows he’s at least aware of the women’s pay structure and some of the structural issues that have gone into why the WNT and the MNT differ in this regard. But he also gave a total non-answer on NWSL.

Eric Wynalda

Wynalda is another equal pay guy, as he told ESPN FC. He doesn’t seem super clear on the current CBA the WNT has with the federation and the exhaustive negotiation that went into it, although perhaps he meant he would just start from scratch with an equal pay contract.

He also said this re: the federation’s relationship with its senior teams. "And as bad as it was for the men's national team... it was 10 times worse for the women. The federation is here to provide guidance, it's to serve, not the other way around.”

So a couple of common themes emerge. Most of the candidates seem to be on board for “equal pay” although if you asked most of them to actually describe the current WNT pay structure, perhaps you wouldn’t get the most comprehensive answer. But some of them, like Winograd and Lapointe, imply that they’re at least aware of some of the basic arguments at play surrounding the issue, including disagreeing with the idea that because the men’s revenue is higher, their pay should be correspondingly higher.

Cordeiro and Lapointe bring up high-profile tournaments for the women. Cordeiro calling for the US to host the Women’s World Cup in 2027 isn’t really groundbreaking; with UEFA getting the tournament in 2019 and probably an AFC country like Australia getting it in 2023, 2027 will be about the time for the WWC to swing back around to CONCACAF, barring a CAF or CONMEBOL country getting its shit together enough to host the premiere women’s soccer tournament. Lapointe’s Open Cup comment is somewhat interesting in that he has suggested a new club competition at all, but his pro/rel comment signals just how out of touch he really is with the women’s club game. American club woso is nowhere near ready to handle a pro/rel system, structurally speaking, and to make that part of your platform is laughable unless you have a 20-year plan in your back pocket.

Martino is the only one so far, it seems, who actually brings up structural inequality keeping women out of positions of power at USSF. And his “bed bugs” comment indicates either he’s been paying attention to the WNT before now, or he’s done a little research.

All in all there’s been plenty of rah-rah I support the WNT! sound bites that focus mostly on the biggest story around the team recently, but not a lot of depth. As the election race proceeds, we’ll see how many of them actually put forth a real plan for continuing the WNT’s success at the highest levels.