Candidate for President of U.S. Soccer – Michael Winograd
Candidate for President of U.S. Soccer – Michael Winograd avatar

On Saturday, November 11, GotSoccer is hosting all of the confirmed candidates for the position of U.S. Soccer President in a two-hour Candidates Forum to be held at the 10th annual GotSoccer/GotPro Winter Convention in Atlantic Beach, Florida. The event will also be livestreamed.

And so, with the day rapidly approaching GotSoccer has invited each of the potential leaders to state his case.

Today we feature New York attorney Michael Winograd.

Why did you decide to run for U.S. Soccer President? Was it the failure of the U.S. MNT to qualify for the 2018 World Cup?

“It definitely wasn’t just the World Cup,” Winograd began. “I was disappointed like everyone else but when you look at not qualifying, it’s really what led to that,” Winograd said.

The problems that led to the U.S. MNT missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986, “have been years in the making,” the father of two soccer-playing children continued, adding, “that’s really what led me to run.”

Winograd has previously said that he intends to focus on three primary initiatives. They are:

*Forming inclusive, merit-based and transparent advisory committees for critical decisions.

*Ensuring equal treatment for women’s soccer.

*Taking down cost barriers in youth soccer and coaching.

Winograd’s first initiative says a lot about how he intends to govern, should he win the election in February, as does a favorite word of his, integration.

For example, Winograd believes youth soccer in the U.S. has become, “increasingly fractured.” “We need everyone,” Winograd told GotSoccer, “to be included in a conversation, to sit down and clearly define who serves what purpose and make sure they are integrated in, that they are all implementing minimum standards and rules that are set forth by U.S. Soccer.”

Winograd believes that the Academy system should be more integrated with all the other existing leagues. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Winograd believes that the Academy system is a step in the right direction, although he would like to, “make sure it (the academy system) is integrated and working with all the other leagues that exist.”

Continuing on youth development Winograd told GotSoccer, “I think we need a U.S. Soccer State Director in each state, and we need a training center in each state, and we need an expansion of the U.S. Training Center program.”

Winograd would pursue “quality people,” for these jobs and acknowledges that it won’t be cheap but mentions the U.S. Soccer surplus, reported to be $100 million, as a potential funding source.

Winograd is also a strong believer in solidarity payments, the system that allows clubs to receive payments from future transfers of players that they helped to develop, a common practice throughout the soccer world but one that doesn’t occur in the United States.

The third of Winograd’s initiatives is ensuring equal treatment for women’s soccer, a topic the candidate was emphatic on.

So, equal pay? “ Absolutely,” Winograd stated. “Let me be clear on this, any unresolved matters would be resolved quickly. We would sit down at the table with both sides and resolve this no differently than I do on big lawsuits,” said Winograd.

“This,” Winograd stated, “is what I’ve done.” “And the driving force would be really simple, whether the U.S. Women’s National Team had been successful or not, there would be equal treatment for the men’s and women’s programs.”

Many of the women’s national team came out in protest regarding the quality of fields that they had to play on in the last World Cup. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

And for Winograd parity isn’t just about the money. “Women won’t be playing on substandard fields if men aren’t, and I don’t think anybody should be,” Winograd led off. “Women are not going to be traveling in coach while men travel first class,” and Winograd concluded, “women are not going to get less per diem than men.”

Winograd continued, “if the women’s program decides that they want a different structure (than the U.S. MNT) then we’ll achieve equivalence, if the women’s program decides they want the same structure, then we’ll achieve equality.”

As I spoke to Winograd a Federal Antitrust lawsuit filed by the North American Soccer League against the organization that he hopes to lead was underway in Brooklyn. The judge would later table a decision until later in the week.

Understandably, Winograd was reluctant to comment on an ongoing lawsuit, although he “hopes they (NASL) will survive with or without an injunction.” Whatever the result of the suit Winograd told GotSoccer, “I think we need to sit down and figure out a way to help and grow the financial strength, the profitability, and the reach of the lower divisions in this country.”

The presidential hopeful says that U.S. Soccer “can’t run in and start dictating,” instead Winograd advocates “finding common ground.”

So, might promotion and relegation be one area of common ground between Winograd and the NASL? Probably not, at least not yet, and not really.

Winograd points to expansion fees in the $150 million range as a daunting roadblock to pro/rel, even as he says, “there are few things that would be as exciting for U.S. soccer as promotion and relegation. I think everybody would agree with that, most everybody.”

Despite that potential excitement, Winograd believes that financial considerations mean that pro/rel is not “a practical reality right now.”

Winograd has ruled out the pro/rel system for the MLS. (ISI Photos/Michael Janosz)

Still, Winograd doesn’t want the system to remain “a pie in the sky,” saying, “we should work toward it.” Improving the lower leagues and closing the gap with MLS “would make the spectrum of pro/rel more realistic.”

Winograd even floats exploring interim measures, including one featuring guest teams that would be promoted from the lower leagues. However, the candidate has no interest in imposing a top-down strategy on MLS. “MLS has been great, Winograd said. “We need to work with them and figure out how we can help each other even more.”

Finally, I asked Winograd, why him? Why should the voters choose him over the other eligible candidates? “I’ve played, coached and managed at multiple levels in the game, from youth, collegiate, professional,” Winograd started.

“As a lawyer, I’ve worked at the absolute top firms in the country on high stakes cases and managed to negotiate settlements in a lot of them and I’ve done it by being prepared, and fair, and open-minded.”

“It’s going to be a difficult challenge,” Winograd said of running U.S. Soccer, “but I think a lot of what I do requires the type of diligence and perseverance, and stamina, frankly, that this job is going to take.”

Citing his experience as an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University Law School, his 17 years as a lawyer and his various experiences in the sport, Winograd notes, “strategy is important, getting people together at the table to find the common, mutually beneficial path forward, is what I do.”

For more on Michael Winograd: on twitter @winogradussf or winogradUSSF.com

Qualifications:
In addition to his position at the Ropes and Gray law firm Winograd serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham University.

Winograd played professionally in Israel for Hapoel Kfar Saba in the early 1990’s following a career at Lafayette College. Winograd served as an assistant coach at the University of Richmond and as the Director of Youth and Team Development for the Staten Island Vipers.

About Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is a staff writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, covering MLS and other US leagues, He's GotSoccer's chief National Team Correspondent.
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