US Soccer president Sunil Gulati will not run for re-election, as per Sam Borden for ESPN. Gulati has been president of USSF since 2006, though his involvement with USSF has lasted much longer than that, previously serving as vice president, as well as several other positions. “I think the best thing for me personally, and for the federation, is to see someone new in the job,” he told ESPN.
Gulati’s term as president was marked by big economic growth, with the federation reportedly carrying a surplus of $100 million after a hugely successful Copa America Centenario. Sports Illustrated reported that number could in reality be significantly higher, somewhere between $130 and $140 million, spurring multiple conversations during this election cycle about what, exactly USSF should do with the money. Gulati was part of the bid committee for the 1994 Men’s World Cup, was on the board of directors for the 1999 and 2003 Women’s World Cups, and was also part of creating a unified 2026 Men’s World Cup bid with Canada and Mexico, a bid for which Gulati will be holding a media presentation before MLS Cup on December 9, continuing in his role as chairman of the joint bid committee.
But if Gulati was able to tout his victories, so too was he called to account for his failures as the US men’s national team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, causing them to miss the WC for the first time since 1986. Systemic problems with the men’s national team set up, from coaching hires to player development to youth pipeline, have been laid at Gulati’s feet, and the mounting criticism would have no doubt overshadowed any attempt he made to run again.
Now left in Gulati’s wake are several presidential candidates who have all been jockeying for airtime in the past several weeks. Kathy Carter, president of Soccer United Marketing, may also join their ranks as a candidate. While Gulati has thus far declined to officially endorse a candidate, Grant Wahl earlier reported that he was considering endorsing Carter, although you have to wonder how much that might actually be the kiss of death for her campaign. On the other hand, the people who do the actual voting for USSF president, which includes delegates from various soccer associations, athlete delegates, and members of the USSF Board of Directors, may not see his endorsement as negatively as general public opinion.
It really is the end of an era for US Soccer, but endings also signal new beginnings. Hopefully this will be a good, productive fresh start for USSF that learns from both the good and the bad of Gulati’s tenure.