Hope Solo, the goalkeeper who was a key part of winning U.S. teams at the Olympics and World Cup, has announced her candidacy to be the next president of U.S. Soccer.
"What we have lost in America is belief in our system, in our coaches, in our talent pool, and in the governance of US Soccer," Solo wrote in an extensive Facebook post on Thursday. "We now must refocus our goals and come together as a soccer community to bring about the changes we desire."
Current U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati declared Monday that he would not seek re-election, flinging the race wide open.
In her post, Solo tells the story of her own decades-long experience in the U.S. soccer program, whose women's national team has often been the best in the world while the men have made only intermittent progress.
"I was just a kid from a lower-middle class family in Richland, WA," she writes. "My parents gave me a great life but they had no choice but to say 'no' time and time again to the outrageous expenses that we would incur with every team, every tournament, and every camp. I was the best player in the state, but I couldn't afford gas money to drive across the mountains to play in tournaments, stay two nights in the hotel and eat out."
The cost of youth soccer is often pointed to as one reason the U.S. men's team has not become an international power, despite the United States' wealth, large population and success in other sports.
Solo laid out a platform of four core principles: creating a winning culture, equal pay and opportunities for women, addressing "pay to play" and lack of diversity in youth soccer, and bringing transparency to U.S. Soccer governance.
She is one of at least nine candidates. The first seven to declare were all men, including current Vice President Carlos Cordeiro and two former players who are now TV commentators, Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda.
Solo is the second woman to throw her hat in the ring this week, after Kathy Carter announced her intention to run. Carter, a former NCAA goalkeeper, has been the president of Soccer United Marketing, which is both the marketing arm of Major League Soccer and holds the marketing rights for U.S. Soccer and the Mexican national team, The New York Times explains.
Candidates for the job must secure three nominations from members of the organization or athletes on its board. Solo's spokesperson told Sports Illustrated that she had secured the necessary nominations ahead of Tuesday's deadline to be an official candidate in the February election.
Solo is recovering from shoulder surgery and hasn't announced her retirement, SI reports, but she hasn't played in a game since the U.S. team's loss to Sweden at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She called the Swedes "cowards" after the loss and was subsequently suspended from the team and had her national team contract terminated. She's also had brushes with the law in recent years, including a domestic violence case from 2014 and an incident in which her husband was arrested on suspicion of DUI while driving a team van in which she was the passenger. He later pleaded no contest.
The race marks a watershed moment for U.S. Soccer. Gulati has been the head of the governing body for 12 years, overseeing a period of growth "in revenues, registrations, opportunities for women, governance and international stature," according to ESPN.
But his tenure as president was upset when the men's team lost to Trinidad and Tobago in October, which SI's Grant Wahl called "the most surreal and embarrassing night in US soccer history." The loss meant that the team failed to qualify for next summer's World Cup.
"[T]he loss to Trinidad was painful, regrettable and led to a lot of strong emotions," Gulati told ESPN. "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."
The outgoing president told ESPN on Monday that he had met with seven of those who have declared their candidacies.
"I think several of them would be in for a pretty big shock about what the job is — it's not just about national teams," Gulati said. "It's about 4 million registered players, referees, medical safety, grass-roots stuff. It feels like that stuff gets ignored sometimes."
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