ORLANDO, Fla. — A new leader for soccer’s governing body in the United States will be chosen today. In the two days leading up to the verdict, the myriad conversations with various factions gliding through the massive lobby of the Renaissance SeaWorld Hotel in Orlando could be characterized in three parts: information, misinformation or deliberate misinformation.
For some, the iterations of the U.S. Soccer Presidential campaigns have been toxic.
“The last transition change of power happened in a restaurant in Hartford, Conn., a little friendlier than this go round,” outgoing president Sunil Gulati said at the U.S. Soccer board meeting on Friday.
Gulati ran uncontested when he replaced Dr. Bob Contiguglia in 2006.
“This time, there has been a lot of nonsense, it’s absolutely ludicrous,” said Gulati, who also characterized the tone of the election as “disappointing, depressing and disgusting.”
A record eight candidates emerged at the annual general meeting, including a pair with strong federation ties — Kathy Carter, who is on a leave of absence as president of Soccer United Marketing, and current U.S. Soccer vice president, Carlos Cordeiro.
The six “change” candidates are former U.S. National Team players Kyle Martino, Eric Wynalda, Paul Caliguiri and Hope Solo, plus two lawyers with backgrounds in the game, Michael Winograd and Steven Gans.
The mantra among the voting associations Friday was “two or three candidates” under consideration. The assumption is Carter, Cordeiro and Martino have command of the first-round votes.
With the desire to form an alliance and ward off the challenges of Carter and Cordeiro, the “change” candidates reportedly met Thursday night to draft a statement of solidarity. But then Wynalda contested the meeting and Winograd exited the assembly prior to its conclusion. Friday morning Winograd told Pro Soccer USA that someone “you wouldn’t expect” was the culprit in his misgivings.
Also on Thursday night, Caliguiri placed himself in a visible lobby position to hold individual and communal chats, where he expressed his views on the state of the game in our country. Close by, Solo warmly welcomed the arrival of her former U.S. Women’s national teammates, Shannon Boxx and Heather O’Reilly.
Boxx and O’Reilly are two of the 20 Athletes Council members whose 20-percent share of the electorate could swing the election.
O’Reilly, a regular in the starting XI for the Arsenal Ladies in England, flew in from London after a match versus Liverpool and will return in time for an early afternoon kickoff against Millwall on Sunday. She suggested the Athlete Council will not vote in a bloc – at least not in the opening round.
Many were stunned to see the three-time Gold Medalist and World Cup champion but any vote cast on Saturday must be in person.
Friday, Wynalda huddled with both Caliguiri and Solo, perhaps seeking allegiance from two candidates who may be encouraged to resign if a second round ensues. At the same time, Cordeiro hoped his passionate discussion persuaded Athlete Council members Stu Holden and Brian Ching just minutes before their vital three-hour meeting. The Athlete Council was scheduled to convene again on Friday night to formulate contingency plans.
The dizzying days ahead of the election suggest Carter will be the victor. She must receive more than 40 percent of the vote. However, if the former William and Mary stalwart slipped closer to 35 percent, her presidential hopes could be in jeopardy.
A prognosticator from a major association explained that Cordeiro’s support was fading and that Wynalda may be prepared to swing his endorsements in the direction of Martino should the NBCSN studio analyst take the lead in the “Gang of Six.”
Some candidates were escorted through the hotel maze by up to seven campaign assistants, most youthful volunteers with a bubbly exterior, readily revealing aspirant qualities that suggest voters would be fools not to slant in their direction.
Information, misinformation or deliberate misinformation? The truth will soon be told.