On Thursday, former U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro, who was forced to resign early in 2020, announced his plans to run for USSF president once again. He will run against current USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone.
Coupled with the announcement, Cordeiro unveiled his campaign website that outlined his plans for the federation should he win election at U.S. Soccer’s Annual General Meeting in March. Here is an excerpt from his platform.
We need to prepare to host the FIFA World Cup 2026—the largest World Cup ever and one of the most complex global sporting events ever held. The eyes of the world will be upon us, and we need to be ready to shine.
I believe we need to bring a Women’s World Cup to the United States as soon as possible as well. We should also aspire to bring other global events to America in the coming years, such as a FIFA Futsal World Cup and a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Just imagine—multiple World Cups in our country within a decade of one another. It will make for the most exciting period in American soccer history. It could be transformative—but only if we do it right and make sure that this opportunity truly benefits everyone across our Federation.
In recent months, members across our Federation have approached me with their concerns about the current direction of U.S. Soccer. Members have not always been consulted on important decisions, such as when the Development Academy was abruptly shut down without discussion or warning, throwing our youth landscape into disarray. Extreme budget and personnel cuts—beyond what was required by the pandemic—have made it harder to rebuild for the future. After nearly two years, the current U.S. Soccer leadership has still not resolved the various lawsuits facing the Federation or reached collective bargaining agreements with the men’s and women’s senior national teams.Across many years, including before and after I served as president, U.S. Soccer has spent many millions of dollars on litigation. If elected, I will prioritize resolving these lawsuits so that our Federation can come together and instead invest these resources in our members as we prepare for 2026 and beyond.
Specifically, I will make it a top priority to reach a settlement with our Women’s National Team players, who have made extraordinary contributions to our Federation, inspired fans around the world and who deserve equal pay. In recent years, U.S. Soccer has made major investments in our women’s teams, and many historic inequities have been addressed. I believe we now have an opportunity to resolve our remaining differences.
Today, for example, our women’s players continue to seek the difference in prize money between past FIFA Men’s and Women’s World Cups. Yet if U.S. Soccer paid the full difference in past FIFA prize money, it would be harder for the Federation to meet its obligations to its other teams, players, coaches and referees.
To find a solution, we need to be bold. Moreover, given what happened two years ago, I feel that I have a personal responsibility to help resolve this issue.
Cordeiro was originally elected as USSF president in 2018 before resigning in disgrace in 2020 due to his (mis)handling of the USWNT equal pay lawsuit. Before serving as USSF president, Cordeiro served as the federation vice president, running and winning election to the highest office after Sunil Gulati declined to run for a 4th term following the failure to qualify for the 2018 edition of men’s World Cup. Current USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone, who was the vice president under Cordeiro before his resignation, is the only other candidate for the presidential election.
The single biggest issue hanging over Cordeiro’s candidacy is, quite obviously, his resignation. I’ll recap what happened, but I recommend checking out our past reporting on his resignation and the preceding events.
Cordeiro’s resignation stemmed from USSF’s legal stance and arguments during court proceedings for the USWNT equal pay lawsuit. While the lawsuit itself was filed in March 2019 (under Cordeiro), the events instigating the lawsuit date back to 2012, with the end of a previous collective bargaining agreement. Before the lawsuit gathered steam, the sides attempted mediation, only proceeding after that failed. From there, the sides began to collect evidence and prepare their arguments. Then came the motions for Summary Judgement. Summary Judgement is where a party argues that there are no important disagreements of fact and asks the judge to give a decision based on the law. Both sides filed a Motion for Summary Judgement and correspondingly filed motions arguing why their side should win over the other. As part of those documents, USSF made statements claiming that the women:
do not perform equal work requiring equal skill [and] effort [to the men because] ... the overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men’s national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes such as speed and strength.
In other words, USSF took the legal stance that the work the players do as part of the women’s team is categorically inferior to the work male players do as part of the men’s team.
When the news hit the broader public, the backlash was swift and overwhelming. Sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Deloitte, Budweiser, and Visa, publicly criticized the federation and sided with the players. Former and current players roundly criticized the team. Even the MLS Commissioner, Don Garber, criticized the federation.
#StandWithUSWNT pic.twitter.com/eaQZWxShZF— Volkswagen (@VW) March 12, 2020
1) I am only speaking for myself on this tweet and no one else. I am part of the Athlete Council. In 2017, we decided as a group, to vote for Carlos, to take over. There was a lot of promises and hope for change. The current released statements have shown my error in judgement— Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly) March 12, 2020
With pressure mounting from sponsorships and the USSF board (THREE board members publicly criticized the moves!!!), Cordeiro issued a resignation.
It has been an incredible privilege to serve as the President of U.S. Soccer.— Carlos Cordeiro (@CACSoccer) March 13, 2020
My one and only mission has always been to do what is best for our Federation.
After discussions with the Board of Directors, I have decided to step down, effective immediately. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/4B7siuIqcL
As you can imagine, not everyone thought very highly of the news that Cordeiro had chosen to try his hand once again at a presidential run.
“…after resigning under pressure” or resigned bc he embarrassed everything and everyone with caveman levels of misogyny? https://t.co/nD9PTPUCRH— Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) January 4, 2022
At this point, some of you are perhaps wondering what I think of Cordeiro’s reelection bid.
Well, I frankly think this move represents a stunning degree of arrogance and lack of self awareness that itself should disqualify him from office. Even if we are to assume that Cordeiro’s claim that there is unhappiness in the ranks is true, why should he be the messenger, why should that justify him carrying the banner forth? Why is it OK to assume that the man who allowed USSF’s name to be thrown into the mud, who let sponsors publicly question their support, who fundamentally alienated the most successful program in American soccer history, why should that man is fit to rule and restore that man to power? Are there really not other, less toxic, options? Is Cordeiro really the only one who can embody and champion these specific issues, rather than, say, the individuals actually complaining? Quite frankly, a version of Cordeiro that was properly humbled by his resignation, a man who recognized the fault in allowing such sexism to be made so blatant within the federation, would not seek office in the first place.
That brings me to the actual substance of what happened to cause his resignation in the first place. In his resignation, Cordeiro stated that he did not fully review the legal filing that led to his downfall, implying that he did not know that the legal team was going to argue along such sexist lines. But even if he did not read that particular document before it was filed with the court, Cordeiro absolutely should have known what legal tactics his team were using. USSF specifically hired a new law firm to handle the case, Seyforth Shaw. Seyforth has long practiced in employment law, with a reputation for pro-employer hardball tactics. And there were clear signs of this tactic, with players asked months in advance during depositions about how they compare to men’s teams and whether women’s play is as skillful or not. To imply that Cordeiro did not know USSF was going in this direction is to imply that he was in the dark on what his legal team was doing on behalf of the federation. Or it is to imply that he’s lying. Both options mark a fundamental failure in leadership.
The lawsuit also indicated a specific element of Cordeiro’s management style that also seems problematic: He likes aggressive strategies. Cordeiro had a year to head off the equal pay lawsuit through negotiations, used a hard-ball law firm for the equal pay lawsuit, failed to find a conclusion through mediation, and then allowed his legal team to use sexist arguments in a scorched-earth strategy. Cordeiro’s aggression reached to such a point that the sponsors and the board were forced to sack him. In contrast, his successor, Cindy Parlow Cone, has used her time in office to repair many of the problems that Cordeiro left. She immediately replaced the legal firm that put out the sexist arguments, reached out to players, and concluded some of the many lawsuits plaguing USSF, including reaching a partial settlement of the equal pay lawsuit that pushed Cordeiro out in the first place.
While I may have a distinct level of revulsion at the idea of Cordeiro replacing Cone (who I think has been quite effective), I do not have a vote. With nominations concluded, there are just the two candidates, with an election set to take forth on March 5th during USSF’s Annual General meeting. You can find an explanation of who votes here, but there is one change that could be very influential. The Athlete’s council’s vote has been increased from 20% to 33%, and that change could prove the deciding factor in the upcoming election.