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Meet U.S. Soccer's 8 official presidential candidates

The field is set for the first contested United States Soccer Federation presidential election this century. (Getty)

The last two-plus months in American soccer have been one giant maelstrom of ideas, opinions, criticism, skepticism, accusations, power struggles, and so much more. They climaxed two weeks ago with a 12-year presidential incumbent, Sunil Gulati, announcing he would not seek re-election, ensuring the United States Soccer Federation will have a new leader come February.

In light of that, it’s nice to have some clarity. It’s nice to have some fleeting calm and structure in a U.S. Soccer presidential race that has, so far, lacked both. Last Tuesday was the deadline for candidates to submit applications and the three nomination letters required to become an official candidate. U.S. Soccer finally confirmed the official slate on Wednesday.

One of the nine candidates, Paul Lapointe, has dropped out. But eight did get their three letters, and passed background checks, meaning eight candidates are in this thing for the long haul. They’re the names you’ll be hearing over the next two months, leading in to the Feb. 10 election. There are surely more twists and turns to come. But for now, it’s time to get to know those eight, and to familiarize ourselves with their visions for U.S. Soccer.

Five of the eight have already spoken at at least one of two candidate forums. Full recordings of the GotSoccer forum and the US Club Soccer forum are available. Many, but not all, have also given media interviews, and/or released formal plans. Five have spoken with Yahoo Sports, and links to those features are below.

Also below is a look at all eight, their backgrounds, their platforms and more. In the order they declared their candidacies …

STEVE GANS

Bio: A Boston-based attorney who played collegiately and, briefly, professionally. He worked on Boston’s 1994 World Cup host city bid, has been a board member and lawyer for a local U.S. Development Academy club, and has done consulting work for European clubs.

Campaign: Gans announced he was exploring a run back in May. He announced his candidacy in September, and has campaigned while maintaining his job at his law firm. His campaign team includes a former senator’s press secretary.

Platform: Gans, like other candidates, wants to give all constituents a louder, more meaningful voice. He says many people across the American soccer landscape aren’t being listened to. He wants to hold a soccer summit to listen to those voices, and implement a youth soccer task force “to solve the counterproductive competition amongst sanctioning organizations.” He wants to form a search committee to select the next men’s national team manager, and in general introduce more collaborative decision-making processes.

Other: Gans has been very critical of the election process. He called for independent oversight of it in a letter to U.S. Soccer on Tuesday, saying it had not been conducted in a “fair, open manner,” and claiming the federation has “displayed neither fairness or transparency.”

More: Gans has a full 21-point platform on his website. He’s also on Twitter. He participated in both candidate forums. He has given several interviews, including one with Yahoo Sports.

[FC Yahoo: Steve Gans is the original U.S. Soccer presidential challenger]

ERIC WYNALDA

Bio: A former U.S. national team striker who played at three World Cups, and scored 34 goals in over 100 caps. He had a 14-year professional playing career, most notably in Germany and MLS. After retiring as a player, he has coached in the NASL, UPSL and a local Californian amateur league. He has served as a technical director and director of coaching at youth clubs. He has also worked as an on-air analyst for ESPN and, most recently, Fox Sports.

Campaign: Wynalda had been plotting a run for some time. He publicly announced his candidacy on Oct. 20, and has taken a leave from his role at Fox. He’s been active on the campaign trail since.

Platform: He is largely seen as the anti-establishment candidate. Throughout his career, he has been unafraid to challenge authority – and unafraid to ruffle feathers. He wants to move MLS to the European soccer calendar, and find a way to institute promotion and relegation. He wants to empower youth clubs, and halt the “overcoaching” of kids. He has called the federation’s relationship with the women’s national team “toxic,” and said he wants to “tear up” the current collective bargaining agreement in favor of a better deal for the players that gives them equal pay.

Other: Wynalda is well-known as a TV personality. But he’s a different person off camera. He has said that, and so have others. That doesn’t mean he’s not brash and outspoken – he has said, unprompted, that he hated the federation as a player, and that other players feel similarly – but he’s much more than just a 10-second hot take.

More: Wynalda has a website, which has links to various interviews he’s done. He’s been on two podcasts, and participated in both candidate forums. And he’s on Twitter.

CARLOS CORDEIRO

Bio: A former Goldman Sachs executive who is currently U.S. Soccer’s vice president. He joined the U.S. Soccer board as an independent director in 2007. He worked on the 2018/2022 World Cup bid committee, served as U.S. Soccer’s treasurer beginning in 2008, and was elected VP in 2016. He is also on the CONCACAF Council.

Campaign: Cordeiro announced his candidacy on Nov. 1, more than a month before Gulati announced he would not run. Cordeiro has continued to serve as vice president, and in other soccer governance roles, while campaigning.

Platform: Cordeiro wants to grow the business side of the federation to put it on par with those of top European soccer nations. He wants to increase its annual budget from around $100 million to roughly $500 million. He wants to prioritize bids to host both the 2026 men’s and 2027 women’s World Cups. Like other candidates, he has pledged to take a collaborative approach to governance. He wants to establish new commercial and technical committees, the latter one part of a whole technical department, led by two general managers of soccer, one each for the women and men. He has admitted he’s not a “soccer expert,” and wants to bring in people around him who are qualified to make soccer decisions.

Other: Cordeiro met with Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber before announcing his candidacy. He has had a close relationship with Gulati, but there have been rumblings of some friction between the two. Both Garber and Gulati appear to be supporting Kathy Carter rather than Cordeiro. So, while Cordeiro is certainly an insider, he’s not necessarily an establishment candidate.

More: Cordeiro is on Twitter, and recently released his full platform. He also spoke with Yahoo Sports about his campaign and ideas for reform. He missed both candidate forums.

[FC Yahoo: Carlos Cordeiro is the insider distancing himself from the status quo]

MICHAEL WINOGRAD

Bio: A New York-based attorney who played collegiately, and briefly professionally in Israel. Winograd had short stints as an assistant coach at the University of Richmond, and as an executive at a lower-division professional club. He has served on the board of his local soccer organization, and coached his kids – one of whom is now in the Development Academy.

Campaign: Winograd announced his candidacy on Nov. 2. He has maintained his job at his law firm while campaigning.

Platform: Winograd has a five-point plan for cutting into the pay-to-play model and the high cost of coaching licenses. He, like others, wants to institute inclusive decision-making processes. He has pitched his experience resolving legal cases involving some of the world’s largest companies as an example of his ability to resolve disputes, and says he’ll apply that to a “fractured” American soccer landscape. He wants to solve issues in the youth game state-by-state, and build state soccer centers, with directors of soccer, that help provide a clearer path to the national teams.

More: Winograd has a website, which includes a more extensive biography and info on strategic initiatives. He has done several interviews, including one with Yahoo Sports, and participated in both candidate forums. He’s also on Twitter, but is not very active.

[FC Yahoo: Michael Winograd brings problem-solving expertise to the USSF race]

PAUL CALIGIURI

Bio: A former U.S. national teamer who scored one of the most famous goals in American men’s soccer history, Caligiuri received over 100 caps and played professionally for 15 years in Germany and the U.S. After retiring as a player in 2001, he coached both the men’s and women’s teams at Cal Poly Pomona. He has also worked with youth clubs. He served on U.S. Soccer’s board in 2008, and on its athletes council.

Campaign: Since announcing his intention to run on Nov. 3, Caligiuri has mostly operated behind the scenes, out of the public eye.

Platform: Caligiuri hasn’t formally laid out his plan in writing, but said he has four main categories he wants to address: Youth development, player identification, adult inclusion and diversity. He, like others, wants to address the “fragmented” youth soccer scene with committees and task forces. He wants to significantly reform the Development Academy, and essentially merge it with the Olympic Development Program and U.S. Club Soccer’s id2 program.

More: Caligiuri participated in both candidate forums, and has done a few brief interviews. He is on Twitter, but isn’t active.

KYLE MARTINO

Bio: A former national team player, Martino came through the U.S. system and played six seasons in MLS. He made eight USMNT appearances, but retired due to injuries in 2008. Since his playing career ended, he has worked as an on-air analyst for ESPN, Fox, and most recently NBC.

Campaign: Martino announced in October that he would not run – in part to highlight the barrier to entry that the unpaid nature of the job creates. But on Nov. 6, he announced his 180-degree turn. He has taken a leave of absence from his “dream job,” the NBC gig, to campaign. He’s flown around the country and the world to meet with various stakeholders since, and held a summit in early December in New York.

Platform: Martino is adamant that the federation should be led by a “soccer guy,” or “soccer visionary.” He thinks the presidency should be a full-time, paid, soccer-intensive position. He wants to shift the federation’s focus from the top of the pyramid to the bottom – to cultivating a soccer culture at the grassroots level, and to increasing access to the game by, for example, building soccer goals under playground basketball hoops. He is developing a formal “progress plan” based on conversations with constituents, and hopes to release it on or around Jan. 15.

Other: Martino has said he will step down if the U.S. men’s national team fails to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, if the women fail to reach the semifinals in 2023, or if the men fail to reach the quarterfinals in 2026.

More: Martino has a website, which includes more information on his vision. He participated in the U.S. Club Soccer candidate forum, and has done several interviews, including one with Yahoo Sports. He is also active on Twitter.

[FC Yahoo: Why Kyle Martino thinks he’s the “soccer visionary” USSF needs]

KATHY CARTER

Bio: The president of Soccer United Marketing, Carter has spent roughly 25 years on the business side of the game since playing in college. She was on the 1994 World Cup organizing committee, and was a founding member of MLS, where she served as the league’s VP of corporate marketing until 1999. She spent time at Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), an MLS ownership group, and at the U.S. subsidiary of International Sport and Leisure (ISL), a FIFA partner. She then joined SUM in 2003, and was the executive VP before ascending to the role of president in 2010.

Campaign: Carter announced her candidacy seven days before the nomination deadline, and 24 hours after Gulati said he would not seek re-election. She was reportedly urged to run by Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber – though she’s denied those reports – and has been nominated by MLS.

Platform: Carter wants to scale back the influence of the president, and empower CEO Dan Flynn. She wants to “create a culture of collaboration,” and bring in soccer experts – perhaps a general manager or “soccer czar” – to oversee the technical side of the federation. She wants to grow the “base” of American soccer, and provide opportunities for people of all backgrounds and socioeconomic status.

Other: Carter’s vision, at time of writing, is somewhat vague, but, after all, she’s only been in the race for a week. She is seen by some as the status quo candidate, but told Yahoo Sports, “I don’t believe that I’m a part of status quo.”

More: Carter has a website, which features a bio and an open letter to the U.S. soccer community. She’s on Twitter as well. She recently spoke with Yahoo Sports about her campaign.

[FC Yahoo: Kathy Carter Q&A on change, conflicts of interest and more]

HOPE SOLO

Bio: Former U.S. national team goalkeeper with more than 200 caps to her name over a 16-year career. Solo has also played for a variety of clubs in Europe and the U.S., most recently the Seattle Reign of the NWSL. She played a leading role in the U.S. women’s national team’s labor negotiations with the federation, but had her national team contract terminated in 2016 for disciplinary reasons.

Campaign: Solo, out of nowhere, announced her candidacy in a long Facebook note five days before the nomination deadline. She has been quiet publicly since.

Platform: First and foremost, she will look to secure equal pay and working conditions for the women’s national team. She wants to restructure the federation and make it more transparent. She wants to prioritize the soccer side over the business side, and wants to invest in youth soccer and address pay-to-play, but it’s unclear exactly how she’ll do all that.

Other: Solo was arrested in 2014 and charged with domestic violence. The charges were eventually dismissed, but later reinstated by a higher court. Solo’s appeal of the reinstatement was denied. The case is still in court.

More: Solo has not done any interviews. She has a website, but it has no election-related info other than a link to her Facebook letter. She’s on Twitter, but hasn’t tweeted since announcing her candidacy.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.