ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. Soccer has a new president: Carlos Cordeiro.
After three rounds of voting Saturday, the former U.S. Soccer vice president beat fellow frontrunner Kathy Carter, a longtime Soccer United Marketing and Major League Soccer executive, with 68.6 percent of the vote. He succeeds Sunil Gulati, who served as president since 2006.
Former MLS and U.S. men’s national team players turned television analysts Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda also were in contention, along with lawyers Steve Gans and Michael Winograd and retired U.S. players Hope Solo and Paul Caligiuri.
The election took place during the federation’s national council meeting, which capped the three-day annual general meeting at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. Leading up to the event, the eight candidates furiously campaigned in a controversial and convoluted battle for the presidency, an unpaid position.
U.S. Soccer’s constituent organizations participate in the vote, which is conducted as a secret ballot via electronic keypad managed and monitored by an independent accounting firm. The first candidate to earn a simple majority of votes — 50 percent plus one vote — won.
After the first ballot, Cordeiro led with 36.3 percent of the vote, barely edging Carter’s 34.6 percent. Wynalda was third with 13.7 percent and the rest of the candidates all had less than 10 percent. During a 15-minute break before the second round of voting, Caligiuri, who took just 0.5 percent of the first vote, officially dropped out of the race.
In round 2, Cordeiro’s lead grew to 41.8 percent. Carter’s share dropped to 33.3 percent and another candidate, Winograd, withdrew from the race.
It took only one more round for the vote to come to a conclusion.
Cordeiro officially became the new president of U.S. Soccer when former president Sunil Gulati brought down his gavel to close the meeting.
The work begins immediately for Cordeiro, who is tasked with resurrecting hope and making significant changes that will ensure the United States never again misses the World Cup.
Many fans and underdog candidates hoped for change, and were disappointed to see Gulati’s vice president win. They are concerned he will bring “more of the same.”
Carter also was considered an establishment candidate due to her ties to SUM and MLS. Carter told Sports Illustrated ahead of the election that the problem was with former U.S. Soccer leadership’s communication about the role of SUM, which she says created the confusion that exists.
The rest of the candidates referred to themselves as “change candidates” and hoped for radical changes in U.S. Soccer’s governance.
Cordeiro told Pro Soccer USA earlier in the week that his first order of business should he win would be “a coming together.”
“There’s been a lot of heated things said, like in any campaign. So we all have to come together,” Cordeiro said. “I don’t mean this in a soppy way, but we have to agree we’re all in this for the right reasons.”
On the eve of the presidential election, Cordeiro shook hands and engaged in passionate discussions with council members at the Orlando hotel.
When asked why he’s a better fit than the other seven candidates running, Cordeiro said he’s “different” and “unique,” before launching into a detailed explanation of his platform and how his experience sets him apart.
He’s a Miami High graduate who immigrated from India with his Colombian and Portuguese parents. He went to Harvard and is a former Goldman Sachs banker. He’s also been a USSF board member since 2007.
Cordeiro traveled the country the past four months, meeting with delegates to tell them about how he pushed for change as vice president and that his experience will make his presidency stronger than his predecessor.
“This has been a very informative campaign,” Cordeiro told Pro Soccer USA. “I think all the candidates have done a very good job bringing the issues that matter to the floor. And I think the membership has been engaged … and I believe they’ll make the right decision on Saturday with full knowledge of what the facts are.”
In his speech before the vote, Cordeiro echoed that statement and pushed his platform of growing a grassroots movement and making the game more accessible for minorities and underprivileged children.
“Today the status quo is unacceptable,” Cordeiro said. “U.S. Soccer needs to change. Transformational change. The vote comes down to one simple question: Who can actually deliver that change?
“I am the only candidate with the experience, independence, vision and plan to hit the ground running on Day 1 and deliver the change we need.”
He’ll need to.