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U.S. Soccer Narrowly Votes to Stay the Course, Avoid an Uncomfortable Transition

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U.S. Soccer Narrowly Votes to Stay the Course, Avoid an Uncomfortable Transition

The U.S. Soccer Federation on Saturday opted to stick with the president who settled the high-profile discrimination case filed by its world champion women’s national team and inked two of the most significant commercial partnerships in the organization’s history—but not by much.

The incumbent Cindy Parlow Cone, who won the Women’s World Cup as a player, defeated her predecessor and challenger, Carlos Cordeiro, by a 52.9%-47.1% margin in a weighted vote conducted by U.S. Soccer members. The result likely will disappoint Cordeiro’s grassroots constituency, but it’ll save the federation from the public, player and sponsor blowback that could’ve followed his election

Cordeiro, the former USSF treasurer and Goldman Sachs executive, resigned from the presidency in disgrace two years ago following the submission of an outrageously sexist legal filing pertaining to the USWNT’s equal-pay lawsuit. He has said he never read the offending passages, but the mechanisms that should’ve prevented their inclusion failed under his watch.

Parlow Cone, 43, became the first woman to win a full U.S. Soccer presidential election since the federation’s founding in 1913. The former player and coach was the executive VP when Cordeiro quit in March 2020. She then finished out his four-year term. She now begins a four-year term of her own.

“The moment of division is now in the past. We are one federation. We are one team. I promise to be the leader for all of U.S. Soccer. I have never been more excited and more hopeful about the future of our beautiful game,” Parlow Cone said in a brief acceptance speech.

“Now is the time for all of us to work together,” she continued. “No more divisions. We don’t have time for all of that. Our moment is now. And I promise you that each and every one of you have a friend and a partner in me as president of U.S. Soccer.”

Parlow Cone’s achievements during her two years in office are significant. She helped navigate the USSF through the pandemic, and although some decisions, like shutting down the Development Academy, were controversial, the federation is nearing the end of its 2021-22 fiscal year in much better financial shape than anticipated. A $34.7 million fiscal-year deficit was forecast, but U.S. Soccer is $12.3 million in the black according to figures released Friday.

Cindy Parlow Cone remains U.S. Soccer president

Parlow Cone also helped negotiate the largest sponsorship contract in federation history, a 10-year pact with Nike announced in November, and the new, eight-year English-language broadcast deal with Turner Sports that was unveiled this week. The federation stands to earn more selling its rights independently than it did under its long-term partnership with MLS’s Soccer United Marketing, which represented a conflict of interest to many critics.

While preaching partnership and reconciliation, Parlow Cone also helped guide the USSF through multiple lawsuits and disputes, including cases filed by the U.S. Soccer Foundation charitable arm—which endorsed her candidacy—and the women’s national team. The WNT’s lawsuit against U.S. Soccer was a massive drain on federation resources and reputation and Parlow Cone was instrumental in the $24 million settlement struck last month. At least one sponsor, Deloitte, publicly questioned whether its relationship with the USSF could continue under Cordeiro. Parlow Cone suggested Saturday there were more that felt that way. The WNT publicly and officially threw its support behind Parlow on Friday. The USSF’s Athletes Council, which includes several current and former WNT players, gets one-third of the presidential vote thanks to a federal law.

Yet that wasn’t enough to put Cordeiro in the rear-view mirror. Parlow Cone’s focus on the pandemic, litigation and other crises left much of U.S. Soccer’s grassroots—the state amateur and youth associations that form the sport’s bedrock—feeling marginalized. Cordeiro said his decision to run again was based on appeals from organizations like U.S. Youth Soccer, which endorsed his candidacy on Friday. He also criticized the federation’s declining influence at Concacaf and FIFA, where he’s a consultant to president Gianni Infantino, and an apparent lack of progress and ambition in planning for the 2026 World Cup, which the U.S. is hosting with Canada and Mexico.

“It was so important to me that U.S. Soccer weathered the significant storms of the last couple of years and was in a position to come out stronger than ever before. Now I won’t say we’ve solved every problem during my time leading the federation, but we’ve made significant progress,” Parlow Cone acknowledged during her speech prior to Saturday’s vote. “Now is the time to look forward, not back.”

A slim majority of the electorate agreed. Parlow Cone’s margin of victory was the smallest in a contested election conducted during the USSF’s “modern era” (since 1990), according to Soccer America.

Later Saturday, a proposal to make the presidency a paid position failed to pass after coming just short of the 2/3 majority required. Parlow Cone will remain a volunteer, but one with significant power and influence as the 2026 World Cup approaches.

“This positive momentum has tangible affects on the credibility and financial well-being of the entire federation,” Parlow Cone said of her time in office. “I hope to continue to find ways to build coalitions across our game so we can all work together to grow the sport for the long term.”

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