This past week might have been one of the worst weeks in U.S. Soccer history. In a court filing U.S. Soccer claimed that “it is undisputed that the job of [Men’s National Team] player requires materially more strength and speed than the job of [Women’s National Team] player”. It also adds, “the job of MNT players carries more responsibility than the job of a WNT player.” During the final match of the SheBelievesCup, former U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro released a statement apologizing for the language and that “it did not reflect the values of our Federation or our tremendous admiration of our Women’s National Team”. But that wasn’t enough to save save Cordeiro’s job.
In the days after the court filing former USWNT players, USMNT players, and notable sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Volkswagon publically expressed their concern using words like “offensive”, “unacceptable”, and “disgusted” in their statements. Facing pressure Cordeiro penned his resignation on Thursday night. Taking over for Cordeiro is U.S. Soccer vice-president Cindy Parlow Cone who is a former USWNT player herself.
At this moment in history, the future of U.S. Soccer is at a turning point that can go one of two ways. Forward or backward. Cone will have a lot to answer for and decisions to make that will shape the future of soccer in the United States. So what should U.S. Soccer do to drive growth and prosperity long-term in the sport?
- Let’s start with Equal Pay: Pretty simple right? On Monday U.S. Soccer’s court filings were disgraceful, and those comments went out when Cone was a VP so yes she will have to answer why that language was allowed to go out the doors. Now is the time to take care of the WNT players who have had acres of success more than the MNT and in-turn have done more for the overall growth of the sport in the United States. A lot of bad PR is going to need to be alleviated and this is the first step in that direction.
- Properly support the NWSL: Another critical piece in the long-term success of soccer. A domestic professional soccer league in the United States for women is necessary and should be properly supported by U.S. Soccer. That means building a WNT schedule that works for the NWSL. That means the victory tour last year doesn’t happen in the fashion that takes WNT players away from the domestic league during critical stretches of their season. Understood about international competitions but victory tours and friendlies can be scheduled better. U.S. Soccer isn’t alone in this either, MLS has to do more as well. If there isn’t PRO/REL in U.S. Soccer the very least the MLS owners can do is properly support the first tier across the sport.
- Win the 2026 World Cup: This one is going to be very difficult but overall building an MNT team that is capable of winning the 2026 World Cup is going to be paramount to the growth of the sport. The hosting of the World Cup in 1994 was a game-changer and 2026 should be no different. The MNT has to be in a position to at least compete for the cup, as a host they are automatically in so qualifying isn’t a problem. Is Greg Berhalter the right man for the job? I have strong doubts but let’s see how 2022 goes.
- Consider Pro/Rel: The third rail of American soccer but if the only reason why there isn’t pro/rel in the United States is that MLS owners are paying $300M for a franchise fee you should no that reason isn’t good enough. Pro/Rel forces teams to compete for every game and make the end of season games between two fringe teams incredibly compelling for fans. In the end, I understand the MLS costs and things of that nature so if you want 30 MLS teams, get to that number and then start Pro/Rel, break off the cap, let teams spend. Yes, that would change the make-up of the league from a league of parity to a league of Liverpool, Man City, Man U, Chelsea, and the rest of the pack. I ultimately think it’s the best option for the long-term prosperity of the sport and the difference between being the Number One sport in the United States or the 5th/6th.
- Lower Ticket Prices: One way to make the game more accessible is by lowering ticket prices. U.S. Soccer’s prices are simply too high. In some spots, they sell just fine. But in a place like Houston for example during the Olympic Qualifying, only 7,082 fans showed up. World Soccer Talk has more on the specific prices but lowering the prices and getting the casual fan through the turnstile is paramount. U.S. Soccers main job should be to grow the game, not grow the bottom line. If it’s a CONCACAF led event that means being a leader and reigning them in as well.
None of these goals are easy to do, they are complex and require the buy-in of many parties who have various interests that may conflict with the overall goal to grow the game. To be honest, at this point I am skeptical if the leadership is in place to be able to make these elaborate moves. But with change there is hope.