Kathy Carter is a credible candidate for U.S. Soccer president, but perception of her being tied to Sunil Gulati and MLS means she must walk a fine line in her campaign.

By Grant Wahl
December 05, 2017

One day after longtime U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati announced he would not seek re-election in February, Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter announced on Tuesday that she will be the eighth candidate to run for U.S. Soccer president—and the first woman to join the campaign.

I recorded a long interview with Carter that will be on the Planet Fútbol podcast posting early Thursday morning, so stay tuned for that. But for now, here are my three thoughts on Carter’s decision:

It’s a welcome addition to have a woman in the race

As I’ve argued before, U.S. Soccer has a gender problem when it comes to leadership in the federation. Carter is a credible candidate with a successful track record in soccer business, and it’s not lost on her that she is the only woman running at this point. She also does have a history playing the game: She was a teammate of U.S. women’s national team coach Jill Ellis in high school and in college at William and Mary.

It struck me watching the men’s World Cup draw last week how many men there were in the room in Moscow, and FIFA should be embarrassed by that. U.S. Soccer has a long way to go, too, to increase the number of women in leadership positions.

Carter has to walk a fine line

With Gulati announcing he won’t run for re-election and Carter announcing today that she’s joining the race, sources have suggested those two decisions are linked. Several said that Carter decided to run only after being actively lobbied by both Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber. I asked Carter about that during our long interview, and she said no, that’s not true, that she made the decision 100% on her own–though she added that she does hope she has the support of Gulati and Garber.

Carter has to walk a fine line: She wants the support of Gulati, who helps bring some voters, but she doesn't want to be tied too closely to a guy who just got out of the race because of negative public opinion about him.

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The challenge for Carter and candidate Carlos Cordeiro is clear

At a time when most people (including me) think U.S. Soccer needs to put more attention on the soccer side and less focus on the business side, Carter and Cordeiro are very much business-side types who know they will need to shake people’s idea that they are extensions of Gulati.

It stands out that both Carter and Cordeiro are stating publicly that they will promise not to be autocratic leaders—a clear reference to Gulati and one of the complaints about his leadership style—and will instead involve many people in the decision-making process, especially on calls like hiring new national team coaches.

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