The deadline for nominations for U.S. Soccer president is late Tuesday night, and one candidate wants an organization outside of U.S. Soccer to manage the proceedings from here on out after what he calls "deficient handling" of the process to date.

By Grant Wahl
December 12, 2017

With the deadline for nominations for U.S. Soccer president looming at 11:59 p.m. CT on Tuesday night, the campaign of Steve Gans, one of the nine announced candidates, sent a formal letter to U.S. Soccer on Tuesday calling for an independent professional to manage the election, SI.com has learned.

Saying U.S. Soccer’s release of the voting delegates list has been delayed and incomplete, and citing three midstream rules changes in the election process, the Gans campaign concludes in its letter that U.S. Soccer can’t be trusted to run the election properly. “In light of the deficient handling of the election process to date,” the letter states, “there is no reason to have faith that U.S. Soccer leadership will manage this process appropriately in the months ahead.”

The Gans campaign cited three midstream rule changes that were approved by U.S. Soccer’s Nominating and Governance Committee:

• The change on September 1 that required official candidates to obtain three official letters of support from U.S. Soccer organization members or athlete members of the board of directors. (The Gans campaign says this created a new barrier to entry that had not existed before.)

• The decision on November 8 to allow nominating organizations or members to rescind their nomination letters by November 27. (This change took place after the U.S.’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, which left some organizations that had nominated the incumbent Sunil Gulati wanting to rescind those nominations. Gulati announced he was pulling out of the race on December 4.)

• The decision made last week to release Gulati’s 24 nomination letters—and make them available to other candidates—after he had officially notified U.S. Soccer that he was not running for president. Gulati waited five days after announcing publicly that he was not running before notifying U.S. Soccer of his decision.

U.S. Soccer’s Nominating and Governance committee is comprised by five U.S. Soccer board members: Committee chair Don Garber, the MLS commissioner; Gulati; Athletes Council member Angela Hucles; Tim Turney; and Donna Shalala.

A U.S. Soccer spokesperson said the federation will be retaining an independent outside firm to oversee the election in itself in February.

U.S. Soccer says Gulati continued serving on the committee while he was a candidate but recused himself from any election-related issue on the committee and the board itself. Garber said last week that MLS would nominate SUM president Kathy Carter for U.S. Soccer president. U.S. Soccer documents show that Hucles nominated a candidate as well. (No name of the candidate she nominated was shown on those documents. Hucles said she preferred not to reveal the name of her nominee publicly, adding that she has not made a final determination on which candidate she will support in the election.)

Gans's full letter, obtained by SI.com, can be seen below:

One of Gans’s advisors—Scott Ferson, a former press secretary for Senator Ted Kennedy—said Gans does have the required three nominations by Tuesday night’s deadline to be an official candidate in the election. The final vote will take place on Feb. 10 at U.S. Soccer’s annual general meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Gans issued a statement to SI.com:

“When I announced my candidacy for President this past spring I knew it would be an uphill battle to unseat the incumbent,” Gans said. “Since then the race has changed but the election process remains clouded in mystery. Early last summer we pressed U.S. Soccer on the rules for nomination. Three changes to the rules later it is still unclear how the election process will unfold in Orlando in February.

“I am running for President because we need new leadership that will ensure transparency and inclusion in the decisions of U.S. Soccer,” Gans continued. “This starts with the election of the next President. I have little confidence that this will happen. We must ensure that we start fresh with the next election, with full confidence in the integrity of the process. We have never had this much interest in an election for President. We are at a critical time for U.S. Soccer.

“Today I called for an independent professional to oversee this election, to ensure that it is fair for the candidates and those voting. How U.S. Soccer handles this first step moving forward will tell a lot about how committed we are as a sport to inclusion, fairness and growth.”

In a letter responding to the Gans campaign on Tuesday, U.S. Soccer chief counsel Lydia Wahlke made these points:

• That the election procedures referenced in the Gans campaign’s letter are not dictated by U.S. Soccer staff, but rather by the federation’s members and elected board members.

• That the delay in Gans receiving a list of voting delegates was due to Gans, not to U.S. Soccer. Wahlke states that Gans waited until October 13 to return the signed list agreement.

• That the voting delegate list is by definition incomplete until the AGM in Orlando.

• That she disagrees with the Gans campaign’s characterization of midstream election rules changes. “No changes have been made that have not been voted on by the board or that do not constitute a clarification issued by the Nominating and Governance Committee in response to questions from our organization members,” Wahlke writes.

The full letter is below:

The nine announced candidates for U.S. Soccer president are (in alphabetical order): Paul Caligiuri, Kathy Carter, Carlos Cordeiro, Gans, Paul Lapointe, Kyle Martino, Hope Solo, Michael Winograd and Eric Wynalda.

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