ORLANDO, Fla. — So what the heck happened here on Thursday night?
With on-leave SUM president Kathy Carter and U.S. Soccer vice president Carlos Cordeiro expected to be the most heavily supported candidates in round one of Saturday’s U.S. Soccer presidential election, the other six communicated on Thursday about the possibility of issuing a public statement that they are the “change” candidates and asking voters to support “change” on Saturday.
Those six candidates—Paul Caligiuri, Steve Gans, Kyle Martino, Hope Solo, Michael Winograd and Eric Wynalda—are hoping that Carter will not get the necessary winning majority in the first round of voting and that voters would support a “change” candidate in subsequent rounds. Their concern is that Cordeiro is gaining some traction among some voters as a “change” candidate, and they wanted to make it clear that they don’t believe that to be the case.
In other words, a public group statement would be designed to try to prevent Cordeiro from winning the election in round two.
One additional possibility would be for “change” candidates to ask their supporters to coalesce around the one who has the most votes among them from round one in subsequent rounds.
According to accounts from several of the people involved, Thursday night’s effort had a number of positive moments as some members of the group found common ground that hadn’t been achieved before. Ultimately, though, those discussions were not able to unite all six candidates and left some of them angry or dismayed by what had transpired.
Some of the candidates were still hoping to release an agreed-upon statement on Friday, but it seemed unlikely that all six would sign onto it.
What happened? Based on those accounts, five of the six candidates—all but Caligiuri—spoke together on Thursday in a meeting room on the second floor of the Renaissance Orlando at Sea World hotel, the hub of U.S. Soccer’s Annual General Meeting. The Gans camp volunteered to write a draft of a statement that would be issued publicly by the group.
Later in the evening, the four candidates other than Gans came one by one into Gans’s hotel suite to look at the draft. Winograd, perhaps the most word-conscious candidate of the group, did not want the statement to include anything that could be construed as negative campaigning against Carter and Cordeiro.
The camp of Wynalda, one of the most outspoken of the group, wanted the statement to include language on what the candidates would do after the first round of voting. That met opposition, which initially caused the Wynalda camp to withdraw, but he later rejoined the group.
Multiple candidates—none more so than Winograd, who ended up walking out—were left unhappy with the Gans group for a few reasons:
• It had let a media member, the respected Washington Post reporter Steven Goff, into the Gans hotel suite to observe without telling them ahead of time. (The Gans campaign had issued an open invitation to media to drop by the campaign hub for a bite to eat or to say hello, without mentioning anything about the statement proposal.)
• It had allowed a photograph of an unapproved draft statement (“From 6 of the 8 Candidates”) to be taken and then published on Twitter without the consent of all six candidates. At least one candidate felt the Gans camp leaked the photo expressly because not all six had been willing to agree on it. Another candidate proposed leaving Gans out of the group altogether. (As of Friday afternoon, though, Gans was still part of the group that was expected to sign onto a statement.)
Making matters even more curious, Caligiuri told SI.com on Friday that he had not been at the meetings and had not seen the draft statement, but other candidates said Caligiuri had been shown a draft near the hotel elevator bank at one point in the evening.