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The USSF Presidential Race Is an Indistinct Mush

U.S. Soccer is at a crossroads, and now is the perfect time to offer specific plans to fix things. Unfortunately, no one is doing that.

2007 MLS SuperDraft - January 12, 2007 Photo by A. Messerschmidt/MLS

Politics and campaigning in contemporary America trends toward a general monochrome most of the time. There are too many different people to please, too many ways to offend, and too few color schemes and wardrobe ensembles to prevent candidates of most offices from becoming almost indistinguishable beyond their vague promises and a general “us vs. them” mentality.

The USSF presidential race shouldn’t be like that. There is a relatively small, finite amount of people to campaign to, far less than the millions of people that vote for, say, U.S. president, or the thousands that vote for city elections, or even the hundreds that vote for school boards in tiny towns in Upstate New York. This offers candidates the opportunity to get specific and relate not only their platforms in general, but also be able to dictate plans for any potential changes, reforms, and other buzzy words presidents say. Impress people. Give us a road map.

The main issue I take with all of the candidates for U.S. Soccer president is that they have all, at least publicly, failed to do that, and in spectacular fashion at times.

Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Fortune

I get it. Not every interview, tv spot, or webpage can cram in every possible iteration of your plans as prospective U.S. Soccer president. But seriously, can anyone tell me how they’re planning to do any the things they say they will do? Because at the moment, there’s a certain “contemporary politics” flair to the race for USSF president: everyone is promising change; no one is offering anything tangible as to how any of that promised change will come about.

Kathy Carter, the seeming leading candidate at this point in the race simply due to her previously established connections to USSF higher-ups, has been exceedingly general in her campaign promises, and perhaps tellingly has repeatedly mentioned the need for business acumen and how the president position is beholden to the board as its chairman, and is not a CEO. Carlos Cordeiro has doubled down on that position, saying the president is ultimately not responsible for who the coach of the USMNT or what the day-to-day operations are. And while he surely didn’t intend to imply it, the comments sound dangerously close to him saying the president doesn’t really need to have much of a plan for the sport side of the game at all. He literally says “I am not pretending to be an expert on the soccer side, but I don’t need to know that, either.” Even if the distinction between president and CEO is an important distinction, why would you admit to not being an expert in the position you’re running for? Both candidates preach change while maintaining continuity and experience, but severely lack in details.

It gets more comical from there. Paul Caligiuri doesn’t seem to have communicated almost any sort of platform publicly. Hope Solo says she will eliminate sexism and discrimination in her campaign statement. She did not offer how she would do that. She didn’t write a paragraph about it. She didn’t even write a complete sentence about how she would eliminate two things that have existed in our society since its inception. Just know that she’s gonna do that. Sexism and discrimination in soccer? Boom. Gone.

Now, the candidates in this race are not necessarily beholden to the general public. We are all not voting in this election, despite our various strong opinions. So, technically speaking, these candidates don’t have to provide us with their plans for the presidency. And for all we know, maybe a few candidates have offered more details to voters. But the scarcity of details even in some crowd favorites like Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino is concerning to say the least. To my estimation, Wynalda has put forth the closest thing to an actual plan for a presidency, as opposed to just a statement of goals, but the details offered don’t match the size of the goals. Moving MLS to the regular FIFA calendar and restructuring multiple leagues into the same pyramid is a popular idea, but is more complicated than just saying that you’ll do it.

Instead of specifics, we get more and more politicking. News broke Friday that Kathy Carter had succeeded in gaining key endorsements after a dinner that included influential members of the soccer public, current USSF president Sunil Gulati, and MLS Commissioner Don Garber. That type of meeting underlines the distrust of Carter many U.S. Soccer fans already harbor, initially fostered by her Soccer United Marketing connection and the still somewhat mysterious amount of control the marketing organization has over U.S. Soccer. The statement from Kyle Martino typifies the candidacy he’s established, preaching transparency and the most consistent internet presence of any candidate. But for the candidate that seems to most highly value transparency and accountability to the public, even his interview with SB Nation states goals, not real plans. (Author Edit/Update: Kyle Martino has already held a summit for his candidacy and a “Progress Plan“ is still forthcoming, as is indicated on his website. Fair play to him, although we eagerly await the details when they are published)

Of course, maybe the real reason we’re not getting these details is because no one is asking for them. An interview or campaign statement isn’t the easiest place to get into the nitty gritty. On the other hand, I think we all know by now that every candidate wants “change,” whatever that means. They want the women’s team to receive equal treatment. They want to overhaul the youth development system. Most even want to build the path to promotion and relegation at the club level in the United States, with a couple notable exceptions. In fact, just looking at the interviews and websites of all the candidates, you’d be forgiven for mistaking most of the candidates for each other, seeing as they’re all saying they mostly want the same things as a president.

And if all the candidates want the same thing, that means the only real difference between them is how they will bring change about. So, please, candidates for U.S. Soccer president: give us details. Show us how your plans and changes will come about if you are elected. We all want to know.

And if you don’t, you’ll forgive us for not getting our hopes up.