Wynalda says U.S. Soccer doesn't have its act together, and he wants to change it
Eric Wynalda doesn’t like the perception of U.S. Soccer, and he wants to bring change on every level. That’s why he chose to run for U.S. Soccer president. With the election taking place on Feb. 10, the former USMNT forward and analyst sat down with CBS Sports to talk about the problems facing U.S. Soccer, what he wants to change and more.
What’s the biggest problem facing U.S. Soccer?
Wynalda: I think that there is a perception of a reality and then there is a reality. The majority of the people that are viewing this from the outside, they see a perception — it’s worse than they thought. The biggest problem we have, if I’m tackling from a federation standpoint, unfortunately, our federation is facilitating the problem. They might very well be the problem. The issues, if we want to get into the weeds here, is that we have a very fragmented, misguided youth system that provides zero directional sense for our young players. We are malfunctioning on multiple levels. But from the outside, sometimes it is viewed as growth, success. The truth is, we really don’t have our act together from an organizational standpoint and I’d argue from a financial standpoint.
Who are you leaning on or looking to for guidance and advice when it comes to potentially replacing Sunil Gulati?
Wynalda: There has been a big group, actually. I’ve surrounded myself with some pretty smart people. More important than anything else, what I’ve educated myself on is surrounding myself with experts in the non-for-profit faction. How could we possibly do things differently? Are we too conservative? Is there a way for us to figure out a better business model? Those are people who have been vital to my understanding of the position. I’ve talked with former vice presidents of U.S. Soccer [as well]. This is a position that has been defined by one man. Sunil Gulati did the job for three terms, and that doesn’t mean that’s the way the next president should address the position. My plan is to surround myself with people who are going to be able to help have an understanding of the game.
What’s the first order of business you want to take care of if elected?
Wynalda: If you really look at it from all of the aspects and try to prioritize, what you realize is there are a lot of factions that want immediate attention.There would be this overall belief to get the men’s national team back on track. It’s never an easy fix, and it needs to be addressed, but it is not first on my list. In my conversations very recently in Dubai with some of the world leaders, FIFA’s presidents and with the owners of our leagues, there is a need for structural change. That summit needs to happen immediately. It’s going to demand cooperation, compromise but also the recognition from all of those amateur and professional entities that their function in all of this is to at least be on the same page and have a better working relationship with U.S. Soccer.
The U.S. men’s national team is without a coach. What factors would you consider when it comes to hiring the next person to lead the USMNT?
Wynalda: I look at it a little differently. In the past maybe we have given our coach a lot of responsibility. Instead of asking him to select a team and play the game, there have been a lot of other jobs. Very recently they have interjected the idea of having a general manager who would answer to the board and give our coach a little bit of help … In the past, we have always just selected a coach and said this is the guy who is going to teach us how to play. I think our country is past that. Our current situation is a wonderful opportunity to assess how we do things. This young group of players, Weston McKennie, Kellyn Acosta, Josh Sargent and Christian Pulisic driving the ship there, this is why it is imperative that a president has a clear understanding of the U.S. national team coach. You can’t just hire a bunch of people around you. The president needs to understand what the job entails. The job itself, we need to evaluate who we are, what we have, our strengths. Our ideas are just to rip it up and start over. We don’t have that opportunity … I think we have to wait till the World Cup is over. There will be candidates that will surface.”
We’ve seen the big differences in compensation when it comes to the men’s and women’s games, especially prize money at big events like the World Cup. We’ve also seen many. Where do you stand on the topic?
Wynalda: Understanding the financials of it is imperative … It is a little deeper than that. It is more of, I would say, a relationship, a soured relationship, a constant source of friction that is really unnecessarily part of the process. First and foremost, the relationship needs to be restored. I think having somebody like me that understands the trials and tribulations, having negotiated with U.S. Soccer and their stance with things, their approach which can be centered around power and based around manipulation and deception of anything else. Equal pay and equal treatment is something that is vital … Nobody has represented us better than our women. They deserve a better deal and are going to get it.