On Saturday, November 11, GotSoccer is hosting 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 U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda.
So, why would Eric Wynalda give up a broadcasting career, his coaching ambitions, and possibly his consulting business for a non-paying job as the President of U.S. Soccer?
Because Wynalda told GotSoccer in a recent phone chat, “some things are too important.” “I think,” the U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer said, “my moral compass has brought me to this place more than anything else.”
“We have been operating under the assumption that these problems were going to fix themselves but my patience has run out.”
His patience has worn thin, not only with, “the current cast of characters that are trying to fix the game,” but also “the ones that are trying to insert themselves into the conversation.” A group that Wynalda “has zero confidence” in.
A vocal proponent of bringing Major League Soccer in line with the rest of the soccer world by bringing promotion and relegation to the league, Wynalda acknowledges that relegation is “a scary thought” for owners who were promised perpetual first division status. Still, Wynalda told GotSoccer, “I think there is a growing consensus now in some of the ownership groups in Major League Soccer that they want to see a better way.”
That better way, says Wynalda is, “an open system that doesn’t disallow some of these (lower division) teams, who have gotten their act together, who have put a great product on the field, an opportunity to have a light at the end of the tunnel, and that is to play top flight soccer.”
“The competitive nature of our professional league is held back,” Wynalda believes, by the MLS schedule, which he points out “is the polar opposite of what everybody else does.”
And Wynalda argues that the weather in places like Chicago, Montreal, and New England, often cited by opponents of changing the MLS schedule, is not an impediment to joining the rest of the world.
“Right now,” Wynalda argues, “we start in bad weather and we finish in horrible weather. What we’ve learned is that as the weather gets poor, so does the soccer.”
Pointing to Seattle’s 2016 MLS Cup penalty kick victory over Toronto, Wynalda said, “we saw a horrible final last year in Toronto. The winning team played 120 minutes without getting a shot on goal.”
Wynalda suggests that Germany’s winter break could be emulated here before adding that “right now we (MLS) have just decided that we are going to play right through a World Cup.” “We’re only going to take a two-week break, although the World Cup lasts a little more than a month,” Wynalda said in astonishment.
Wynalda believes MLS and ultimately the national team is hurt by these MLS peculiarities.
“I spent a couple of weeks in Europe two months ago,” Wynalda began by way of illustrating the league’s perception problem. “In conversations with a lot of officials and GMs they literally looked me in the eye and said, we’re not interested in Major League Soccer.” “Then you say,” Wynalda went on, “but you just signed three American players – oh, of course, but,” Wynalda was told, “if they make the mistake of signing with Major League Soccer we’re no longer interested, and that’s a problem.”
“Europe will not engage with us,” Wynalda concludes, “simply because of the timing of our schedule. We refuse to engage in the transfer market, but now they’re coming across the pond and taking our talent at the age of 16 and 17 and convincing them that staying in America is a mistake for their career.”
“When you have 99% of the agents that I’ve spoken with, somewhere between 25 and 30 agents, and not one of them at this juncture, especially with what’s just happened with the national team, will tell you that their advice is to sign in Major League Soccer.” “That’s a massive problem,” Wynalda emphasizes, “especially when you count how much influence the agents have.”
Of course, Wynalda had much to say outside of the realm of MLS. On the U.S. WNT and equal pay, etc Wynalda told GotSoccer, “the women’s situation is very easy. We have never honored them, we have never had a relationship from the federation standpoint that was representative of a partnership.” “That,” Wynalda said, “needs to be fixed.”
Wynalda believes “you would be hard-pressed to find somebody in this day and age to say, out loud, publicly, that they don’t support equal pay.”
As a former contracted employee of U.S. Soccer, Wynalda feels a kinship with today’s USWNT members. “I remember my first contract,” Wynalda said. “It was $18,000 and when I signed it in March they explained to me that it was prorated, so I was only going to make about 15.”
So, what can the President of U.S. Soccer do about all of this?
“At the end of the day,” Wynalda said, “your role as President is to help this country have a clear vision and that comes from soccer knowledge.” The status quo is simply not good enough for Wynalda, who told GotSoccer, “that has been the narrative for Mr. Gulati,” who according to Wynalda took the stage a couple of weeks ago at a United States Adult Soccer Association function, “and informed all the state association members that we’re going to be okay.”
“That was his message, and I couldn’t help it. I had to look him in the eye and with that audience and say, I think you’re right. I think we will be okay if you stay in charge.” For Wynalda, however, “okay isn’t good enough anymore, it’s not good enough.”
Qualifications: Hall of Fame playing career. Head Coach with Cal FC, Atlanta Silverbacks, Bakersfield Brigade.
Operates consults business on soccer issues.
Technical Director Atlanta, Bakersfield.
Longtime analyst, currently for Fox Sports.