Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer Federation’s president for the last 12 years and the man who presided over the worst debacle in American soccer history, has told ESPN that he will not seek to retain his position in February’s election. This is good news!
Here’s what Gulati had to say about his decision:
“I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and talking about it with people in many different positions — many of whom told me I should run,” Gulati said on Monday. “But in the end, I think the best thing for me personally, and for the federation, is to see someone new in the job.”
“Look, the general perception in the soccer community versus the people who vote in elections may be different right now,” Gulati said, referring to the various state soccer associations and administrators who will vote in the presidential election.
“But the loss to Trinidad was painful, regrettable and led to a lot of strong emotions. And to be honest, I think at this point, that’s overshadowed a lot of other things that are important. So fair or not, I accept that and think it’s time for a new person.”
It seems pretty clear that Gulati’s motivation here is less about owning up to his role in the failure of the men’s team to qualify for the World Cup and more about him not wanting to deal with the headache of having to deal with rabble-rousers like us who’ve called for his unceremonious removal, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that Gulati realized that something needed to change, and that he couldn’t get away scot-free for the USMNT’s humiliation, even if he doesn’t seem to think he did anything wrong.
Whether his successor—the two biggest names of the current candidates are former USMNT players, Eric Wynalda and Kyle Martino—proves more adept at leading the sport to a brighter future (and let’s not overlook the struggles the women’s team has already and will continue to face while trying to maintain their advantage over its rapidly advancing European competitors) will probably depend on just how far the new president will be willing to depart from Gulati’s plotted path. But at the very least this demonstrates a modicum of accountability for U.S. Soccer’s failure, and that, more than anything, should have American fans cautiously optimistic.