Carlos Cordeiro resigned as U.S. Soccer president late Thursday night, culminating a historically traumatic week for American soccer in which the sport’s governing body had argued in writing that “indisputable science” meant the world champion U.S. women’s national team was inherently inferior in skill, ability and responsibility to the U.S. men’s team simply because of its gender.
It was an unconscionably offensive legal strategy for U.S. Soccer to take during the USWNT players’ gender-discrimination case against the federation, and it brazenly put into writing for posterity the discrimination that the USWNT had sensed for decades. Cordeiro’s resignation was the only tenable result after such a strategy, not least because he was facing extreme pressure from media and several U.S. Soccer sponsors—Coca-Cola, Visa, Budweiser, Deloitte—who had used the words “offensive,” “disgusted” and “unacceptable” to describe the federation’s actions.
There were others who called for Cordeiro’s resignation, including U.S. legends Abby Wambach and Michelle Akers and Athlete Council member Heather O’Reilly, who took the lead ahead of anyone else inside the federation to lambaste U.S. Soccer’s stance and ask for Cordeiro to step down.
Among U.S. men’s players, DaMarcus Beasley was the first prominent representative to call out Cordeiro and the federation on Thursday. In terms of leadership, it was disappointing that more current USMNT players and members of the U.S. Soccer board and Athlete Council refrained from demanding Cordeiro’s resignation. This legal strategy from U.S. Soccer was beyond the pale and it was a strategy that wasn’t new, having become clear to the entire public when filings were released on February 20.
USWNT players, for their part, had protested on Wednesday night before and after their 3-1 win against Japan, wearing their pregame shirts inside-out to make the U.S. Soccer badge invisible
Cindy Parlow Cone, the U.S. Soccer vice-president and a former USWNT stalwart, becomes the federation president. She will have a stiff challenge ahead. Parlow will need to arrest the utter dysfunction that has surrounded U.S. Soccer for years now, to say nothing of repairing a relationship with the USWNT that has deteriorated beyond recognition. U.S. Soccer is still headed for a court date with the WNT players on May 5, but if the federation has any brains at all, it will find a way to settle the case before that and write a big check to the U.S. women.
It’s important to note that the disaster at U.S. Soccer is not new, and it is not confined to Cordeiro. A culture of misogyny has permeated the U.S. Soccer board of directors for decades now, as described in the SI podcast THROWBACK and elsewhere, and forces still on the U.S. Soccer board were no doubt involved in approving the legal strategy that the federation so shamefully used here. They should be removed. Cordeiro’s ouster is only the first step in transforming U.S. Soccer into an organization that can be trusted to do what is truly right for the sport in this country.
Perhaps Parlow can spearhead that transformation. But she will need the support of the right-thinking people in American soccer, people who need to work together to transform the miasma that this federation has become. Cordeiro’s resignation is only the start of that process.