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 live-streamed.
And so, with the day rapidly approaching GotSoccer has invited each of the potential leaders to state his case.
Today we feature Boston attorney Steve Gans.
Well before the U.S. MNT suffered its calamitous defeat in Trinidad and Tobago, Boston attorney Steve Gans had announced his intention to take on longtime U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, so what, GotSoccer wanted to know, was the catalyst?
What Gans called “the Klinsmann fiasco,” provided that final push to make a move that Gans had been mulling for a couple years. The candidate explained “the Klinsmann thing” this way. “He (Klinsmann) wouldn’t have been my choice, I wouldn’t have given the extension of the contract before a World Cup cycle, and of course,” Gans underlined, “the $6.2 million severance for a non-profit organization was troubling.”
Having thought things over Gans then headed out on what he called, “a listening tour.” What Gans heard on his journey was that “yes, yes, change was needed, people are feeling marginalized in certain constituencies in U.S. Soccer, that youth development isn’t going well, or in the right direction.”
It was enough to make Gans announce a challenge to the incumbent U.S. Soccer President, Sunil Gulati, who has run three times unopposed.
“And, of course, that was well before three weeks ago Tuesday,” Gans noted, referring to the loss to T&T that eliminated the U.S. MNT from the World Cup.
“Three weeks ago Tuesday,” Gans said, “was horrible, period, but as horrible as it was, it wasn’t just about three weeks ago Tuesday.” That loss was “symbolic of the systemic problems that we’ve been talking about for a long time.”
For Gans, then, what are some of those problems?
He begins with a nod to the “organization,” saying, “constituents have not been treated well, or with respect in many cases. If you talk to the Youth State Associations, voting delegates, and the heads of Youth State Associations or Adult State Associations, they feel they’ve been afterthoughts,” Gans told GotSoccer.
Those constituents that Gans spoke with felt that too much attention was being showered on the national teams. Gans would like to correct that imbalance. “To me,” Gans said, “every constituency matters equally.”
That is not to say that Gans is unaware of the financial might of the national team in contrast to that of the rest of those constituents. Still, Gans insists, there are other concerns beyond the bottom line.
“Forget about the money for a minute,” Gans began, “from an ethical standpoint, from an everyone involved loves this sport standpoint, every constituency matters equally, in my opinion,” Gans repeated.”
And Gans maintains that same position as a practical matter, too. “How” Gans wonders, “ can we develop great players that are going to feed the Olympic and national teams if things are dysfunctional down even at the earliest stages in youth.”
As one example of where things need to improve, Gans points to the Development Academy system. Involved with the DA as a parent and a board member, Gans contends that the Development Academy “is producing joyless players, adding, “you cannot be a great player if you don’t play with joy.”
Gans cites “nonsensical edicts issued from 30,000 feet,” as one of the problems with the DA, problems he feels qualified to address as someone who has, “lived the academy.”
Gans has his thoughts too, on the hot-button issues of the day, promotion, relegation and pay to play. Of pro/rel Gans told GotSoccer, “I think it’s a great thing. I think it’s how the game works around the world.” With the U.S. MNT failure to make the World Cup still fresh, Gans tips his hat to the “pro/rel people,” agreeing with that group, “that players who play with that pressure every week develop more of a cutting edge.”
But while Gans believes that, “in principal, it is a great thing,” he cautions, “you can’t just say that without considering the context and the structure of American sports.”
Ultimately Gans is not saying no, more like, not now. “It’s something that’s got to be studied, it’s something that hopefully can happen someday.”
On to pay for play. “For better or worse it is how it was developed here, it’s not going away tomorrow.” “I’m on record,” Gans continued, “as saying that I would use part of the surplus, $130, $140 million surplus, to help defray some of that burden.”
Gans said he wouldn’t drain the fund but feels that for both, “ethical and practical reasons (USSoccer should) identify some of those kids that are shut out of the system because they can’t afford to be in there.”
“Can you go tomorrow and eliminate pay to play completely?” Gans asked before answering his own question, “I don’t see how you have a magic bullet to do that.”
So why does Gans feel that he is the best person for this job?
He begins by acknowledging the challenge before making his case. “First of all this is a big job,” Gan notes. “I have significant playing experience, I’ve done a lot of the playing, coaching side, picking coaches.”
Taking a thinly veiled swipe at Gulati, Gans wants everyone to know that when it comes to selecting a national team coach, “I would never be autocratic.”
Gans would form a committee including former national team players to help in the process, a process that Gans points out is just one part of the job.
“This job is bigger than just someone who has technical playing expertise.” “This job demands someone who has significant organizational leadership experience, business experience, advisor experience, conflict resolution, consensus building, negotiation experience. All of which I have,” Gans said.
“I can look anybody in the eye, other than professional referees, and say, I am you.” “I come from every single constituency,” said Gans. “From youth as a parent, as a coach, as a board member, parent of a development academy kid, advisor to clubs, advisor to parents, all the way up to the Premier League, where I advised.”
Gans adds that as a player, he signed a pro contract, although he did not play for the Baltimore Blast, where he also was an executive.
“I think I’ve got the combination of soccer, rich, deep, successful soccer experience with the professional business and legal and advisory and leadership organizational experience.”
Then the kicker. “I just don’t see another candidate out there that has that.”
Partner at a Boston Law Office. Principal at Professional Soccer Advisors served on the Board of Directors for the FC Bolts Celtic and worked in the front office for the Baltimore Blast.