As part of the Planet Fútbol Podcast's efforts to interview all eight U.S. Soccer presidential candidates, New York City attorney (and longtime member of the soccer community) Michael Winograd joined the show this week for a revealing discussion on what he would do as U.S. Soccer president.
Here are some of the highlights of Winograd's interview:
On what he would do with U.S. Soccer’s $150 million surplus:
“In large part, what I want to do, and this ties into player development, is build a state soccer center in every state. Larger states more than one, similar to the number of associations. And that’s going to cost some money, and our surplus could cover it right now, and then some. I’m talking about building a center with fields and a full-time state soccer director who will be paid very competitively.
“We need to get somebody who is coming out of school or been in the game for a while and saying, ‘Hey, I have an opportunity to coach college at a great NCAA school, I may have an opportunity to coach MLS.’ But we’re going to make the salary competitive enough that it’s a viable alternative for the top quality folks to come in as a neutral and skilled, experienced state soccer director. And that person again is going to be housed in a state soccer center with fields. And that is going to be the centerpiece of a clearly defined path to our national teams.”
On his thoughts on bringing promotion and relegation to U.S. soccer leagues:
“There are few things that would be as exciting for our pro leagues as having promotion and relegation. It’s not a practical reality right now when you’ve got franchises that are being sold for $150 million or $200 million. I think the first thing we need to work on to bring it closer to reality is focusing on the profitability and stability of the lower divisions, closing the gap between the lower divisions and MLS so that promotion and relegation become more of a potential practical reality.
“Like a lot of the initiatives that I and even others have talked about, getting them actually done requires a skill. It requires understanding the interests in this case of business folks who have paid a lot of money to become part of MLS and are bound by certain contracts. MLS is bound to them and vice-versa with respect to a lot of contracts. Understanding everybody’s interests and being able to articulate to them why it may actually be in their best interests to consider promotion and relegation, again, that’s something I do on a daily basis with CEOs in big companies.
“One of the interim steps that I’ve talked about—maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at least in the closer range—are guest promotion spots. So for example, tell MLS: Your teams have bought into MLS, you’re not open to relegation. You stay in the league regardless. We will create two promotion spots. Lower-division teams can come up. If at the end of the season one of those teams is within the bottom four, pick a number, that team drops down and the spot opens up for a new team to come up. If it’s not within the bottom four, that guest spot doesn’t open up and you wait until the next year.
“That at least is an interim measure that attempts to alleviate some of the concerns you might imagine that the MLS owners would feel and, almost as a test run, allow for the excitement of promotion and relegation, allow the parties to socialize to the idea and eventually continuing with the dialogue, again, with the hope that eventually we can get to promotion and relegation, because it would be a very exciting thing for the pro leagues.”