USSF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION QUESTIONNAIRE: KATHY CARTER

From AO: The US National Teams are important to us and we are going to make a positive difference.

We aim to inform and engage our AO membership of USSF’s election process and give the candidates a platform to articulate to our members. We believe this is a two step process.

The first step is to focus on change in leadership and leading the conversation of candidates to replace Sunil Gulati since he will no longer seek re-election. We will do this by sharing our concerns and issues with potential candidates, USSF, and the public. Then, we will give all change candidates a platform to listen to AO members, and to provide their plans and ideas.

Second, we will work to shine a light on the USSF process, as well as give a platform for change, with this member engagement. We want to focus on this to elicit change before we take further action. We have extend invites to all candidates to address our membership via questionnaires, live video chats, and provide feedback via comments and straw polls.

You can see all of this in our AO Election Center

The result below is Kathy Carter’s own words in response to questions from AO. These questions were culled from issues based on a survey we sent to our members in late 2017. 

Background

Name: Kathy Carter
Age: 48

Soccer Experience:

Player: I joined my local rec team at age 7 and went on to play for and in club, ODP, Regional and Youth National Camps. I was a High School All-American and a starter for the nationally-ranked College of William and Mary. At the time, there wasn’t a women’s pro league and the US Women’s National Team was really just beginning, so I pursued a career in business. I continued playing in adult leagues in CA, NY, and VA.

Executive: My professional soccer journey started over 25 years ago as a member of the World Cup ’94 Organizing Committee. Before I took an unpaid leave of absence from my job, I was the President of Soccer United Marketing (SUM), where I had responsibility for leading more than 100 employees. My team and I generated several billion dollars on behalf of the game and were charged with increasing the value and brand of US Soccer, the Mexican National Team, Copa América, MLS, and multiple CONCACAF properties. Importantly, I also have experience internationally, including as the U.S. representative on FIFA’s Committee for Women’s Football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup. I have worked tirelessly for the game, and have been recognized for my efforts as a SportsBusiness Journal and Crain’s NY Business Forty Under 40 award winner, and recipient of the 2009 Women in Sports and Events (WISE) award.

Fan: I am a life-long soccer fan, and I love to travel our country and the world to watch our great game. As just one example, I’ve attended the last five FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments, and five of the last six FIFA World Cups. Oh, and I’m typing this on the way to Scotland to watch my first-ever Old Firm match – should be fun!

Opening Statement

It was July 5, 2015, and my boyfriend Dave and I were in Vancouver for the Women’s World Cup Final. Whenever possible, I participate in the true fan experience instead of just sitting with the “suits.” Therefore, we joined AO and other fans for the March with the Yanks. As we’re marching, I heard someone yell to me, “Hey KC!”

I turned and saw a familiar guy in a baseball hat and sunglasses. I smiled and said, “Hey, what’s up LD?” as we hugged hello. Then, he looked around and said, “Wow, this is amazing…do they do this for the Mens games?”

I couldn’t stop laughing. “Yeah, Landon, they do this for the Men’s games” – he was of course always in the locker room! We continued to soak up the atmosphere and then experienced an amazing performance by Carli and the entire team.

It was such a great day, and it involved much of what I think we all want to see in the future for US Soccer – great fan support, a united community of kids and adults, the involvement of our past players, and excellence on the field of play.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I still have a pit in my stomach from watching the USMNT lose to Costa Rica on Sept 1 and Trinidad on Oct 10. For a long while, I knew there was room for improvement at US Soccer. After the accumulated impact of a failed World Cup bid, missing the men’s Olympic tournament two cycles in a row, and failure to qualify for 2018, I knew the time for change is now. After discussions with my family and friends, I decided I had to take this chance to give back to the game that has given me everything. So, I committed myself to working together with everyone in the US Soccer community, including the 190+ chapters of AO, to make the necessary changes to have more days like that special one in Vancouver!

Questions

I’ve tried to provide straightforward and specific answers to your questions. I’m of course happy to discuss any of them further.

1. What leadership experience and leadership style makes you qualified to be USSF President?

I represent change with the experience needed to actually get it done, and I pride myself on my commitment to three key principles: (1) Integrity – Holding myself and my team to the highest possible standards across every aspect of business, (2) Transparency – Involving and sharing various points of view and input to build consensus on key decisions, and (3) Accountability – Delivering on the promises we make by setting and achieving clear goals.

I developed these principles throughout my 25 years of leadership and management experience in the sports industry. I began my career as part of the successful 1994 World Cup Organizing Committee. I went on to be a founding member of MLS and to rise through the ranks at the league and Soccer United Marketing, where I most recently led a team of more than 100 employees as President of the company. My entire career has been focused on growing the game in the US, and the work I’ve done puts me in the best position to continue advocating on behalf of the Federation and the game.

Finally, I am experienced enough to know that no one person has all the answers. To arrive at the best solutions for our game, we need to ask tough questions and assemble a team of the best and brightest from around the sport to collaborate with one another. While I respect our past leaders, I have heard from our Members that US Soccer has been dictating too much and not listening enough. That must change, and it will under my leadership. You can count on that because I have a track record of results to prove it.

2. What changes will you make to youth development in this country? Can you provide a timeline of the changes that you envision?

Our youth system needs attention, no doubt. We should be doing much more to ensure that our game is accessible to all kids regardless of their socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, or which part of the country they live in.

Based on personal experience, and the valuable input I have received from the front lines, it is clear that much of our development process needs to be simplified and needs to encourage kids and families to stay in the game. I would be completely contradicting my leadership principles above if I tried to dictate a solution right now. Instead, in my first 100 days, I will empower an independent youth soccer commission who will take a comprehensive and unbiased look at the challenges and opportunities in front of us. I will ask for recommendations to the Federation Board of Directors and the public later this year.

I will build unity among the various youth organizations and develop a common vision to address issues at the youth level. While there is no one answer that will reset our course for success, there are a number of principles to which we should adhere in the short- and long-term.

In order to set us on the right and proper course, I will adhere to the following five guiding principles relative to youth soccer in the US:

  • Culture: I will ensure that we open a national dialogue to begin to change the culture of our sport. In most countries, soccer is a part of the fabric of society. Children play for fun, on playgrounds, in back alleys, with friends, at all ages; not just when practice is scheduled and the whistle blows. The stickball era is behind us, but the street soccer era is very much in our sights. Our young players, in order to compete at the national level, must play the game for fun, on their own, and with confidence. Our culture of organized soccer is healthy and strong, but needs to be supplemented with creative free play that happens only with a shift in our culture to a soccer nation.
  • Vision: With the help of a Youth Soccer Commission, which I will establish, the Federation must define and implement a vision for youth soccer that is made of and supported by our soccer leaders at all levels. Among other things, the Federation must be able to broadly lead a development pathway for our players, define the type of players the Federation seeks, and provide guidance on how best to produce them. It is the regional, state and local organizations that must help define this, but the Federation must lead the discovery and provide the final vision.
  • Leadership: We will lead from the front, with clarity and purpose. As I have done throughout my career, I will ensure that the Federation leads the sport of soccer with a clear vision and set goals. We need to set tangible targets around which we all align, and pursue them with vigor as a team. We will need to come together and agree what those targets are. At the same time, we need to look at the effectiveness of leading the sport of soccer from one central location in Chicago, versus satellite offices in the regions. If we are going to work together, we will need to better structure the organization to ensure that we provide access and enable communication from the front lines to the front office.
  • Inclusion: We need to hear from our membership, our past leaders, former players, and our broader soccer community. We need to foster a culture of inclusion, that allows us to listen to and implement the best ideas, from the grassroots on up. Yes, we need to lead from the front, but this can’t be done without significant input from the people that put us in a position to succeed. For example, we need to broaden our development efforts beyond just the elite pathway as players develop at different times and in different ways. This will empower our members to get and keep more kids in the game and provide more opportunities to leverage the knowledge of our former athletes to contribute to the growth of the game at the grassroots.
  • Education: The Federation can and should do more as it relates to coach and parent education. Our youth coaches need to have access to continuing education and performance clinics, in order to ensure that we continue to raise the bar for our developing players. While our licensing system helps ensure that our “top” coaches are sufficiently credentialed, we need to see to it that coaches at all levels of the youth game have a consistent and educated view of our guiding vision. At the same time, we could all benefit from educating our parents on how we collectively can help develop their children, and making sure that at the core of our programs, players and parents understand what they need to do to improve.

 

3. In what ways will coaching in the United States change under your leadership?

At the youth level, I am continuing to gather insights, but at this point, I can tell you that I’m committed to three significant changes (1) Reducing costs – We need to make coaching licenses much more affordable, (2) Increasing the number of women coaches – We need to get more women to complete their coaching licenses, and (3) Providing coaches with more educational opportunities – We need to create an environment of continuous learning for coaches throughout the system.

At the National Team level, we must do the following:

  • Establish the role of General Manager and make sure they are focused on all of US Soccer’s National Team programs.
  • Underneath the General Manager, there should be Directors, each with a full staff, for girls/women and boys/men across each US Soccer program. This structure allows the Federation to have a team of experts solely focused on how we continue dominating on the field or how we need to improve to begin dominating.
  • Additionally, the General Manager and Directors should be supported by advisory councils made up of current and former athletes so that our players remain connected to the Federation and have a platform to voice their opinion on improving the game at all levels.
  • In terms of the next National Team coaching decisions, we need to engage the General Manager, athlete advisory council and the collection of technical experts we now have in the game to provide the Board with recommendations on National Team coaches, as well as the measurements to gauge their success in the job.
  • Analyze, and adjust as needed, the pay for USWNT coaches. I’ve heard time and again that potential coaches aren’t interested in National Team positions because the pay is significantly lower than other opportunities. This is not acceptable and must change immediately.

 

4. The current pricing structure for many U.S. Soccer games makes it difficult for the emerging fan, the diehard fan, and families to access National Team games regularly. What will you do to address affordability and access to games?

I have seen first-hand that supporters’ groups and fans are absolutely critical to the success of any game or league (shout-out to MLS supporters’ groups!). In the past, my sense is that revenue was often the number one driver for decisions made by US Soccer in this area. While revenue will of course still be important, I will prioritize atmosphere above revenue, particularly for qualifiers.

In 1999, David Stern established that every NBA game must have 500 seats under $10. We’ll have to work on the specific numbers, but since ticket prices have risen significantly, this is an idea we should adopt.

5. Describe what you will prioritize when choosing cities/venues to host matches for our national teams.

US Soccer should seek input from coaches, technical experts, supporters groups, and players when making decisions on stadium selection for National Team games. In addition to atmosphere as mentioned above, I will also factor in (1) field quality, (2) travel for our players, and (3) creating consistency for our fans and players.

I’ve visited amazing soccer cities across the country and believe that US Soccer needs to do more to develop venues where our Women’s and Men’s National Teams are given energy by the supporters to dominate on the field. More specifically, I envision having 3 or 4 stadiums (likely one in each time zone) that we will use for key matches – we will work to make each a USA “fortress” like some of the most atmospheric stadiums in the world. Over time, we will build a track record of success at these “fortress” venues, and opposing teams will fear playing there.

6. How do you envision the ideal gameday experience for fans attending a U.S. Soccer game?
As described in my opening statement, the ideal experience must include the March with the Yanks. As I tell every fan, if you haven’t experienced this yet, you must do so! It gives me goosebumps just thinking about the March at National Team games and in so many great cities.

The ideal gameday experience continues with the atmosphere inside the stadium. Since I’ve dedicated my life to this, I know how to make sure our team at US Soccer works with the venues on all the necessary details that are important to supporters (I love the AO tifo!).

In addition, I know the ticketing world inside and out, so I will push the US Soccer staff to use the latest and greatest tools and technology to ensure our diehard USA supporters have greater access to tickets. We should consider using this technology to coordinate with all supporters groups and fans to share what color our team in wearing so they can plan accordingly for the game – imagine a full “White Out” in the stands when our men/women is wearing white!

The last important point is that the gameday experience must also cater to kids. They won’t be the ones jumping up and down with AO, but we can’t ever forget that a child watching a National Team game might be the next Mia, Carli, Clint, or Christian, so we have to provide a great experience for families.

7. How will your presidency incorporate the views of fans and include them in the governance of U.S. Soccer?

I know in my heart and in my mind that fans are the lifeblood of any sport because above everything else, I am a fan first. It is important that decisions made about the game and our country’s teams incorporate the input from fans, rather than the Federation dictating solutions.

Therefore, I am recommending that we create a supporter council that incorporates the views of AO into the planning for key matches. Much like we factor in the views of our coaches, media partners and sponsors, we must similarly factor in the views of the fans.

8. Why should fans unite behind your candidacy for U.S. Soccer president?

As you probably know, this is an extremely difficult role with a vast array of constituencies. Fans should unite behind my candidacy for one key reason – I have, far and away, the absolute best combination of experience as a fan, player, and executive. It’s that simple. I think this is represented in my unyielding drive to make sure that we host the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the most important sporting events on the planet, which will change the trajectory of our sport in this country for generations to come.

As you have articulated better than I ever could – the U.S. soccer community must “Unite and Strengthen!” I have spent my professional life bringing people together to solve tough challenges facing the game, and I hope to have the opportunity to do the same as President of US Soccer.

NOTE: Kathy Carter will be taking questions from AO members in a LIVE, moderated online forum on Monday, January 15th at 8pm ET. All members were emailed a link and password on Monday to participate in viewing the forum, submitting questions to Ms. Carter, and listening to his answers. The general public will be able to view this forum in the days that follow. 

So far six of the eight candidates for USSF President has agreed to AO’s request for both a questionnaire and forum date. More will be added as other candidates RSVP. 

LIVE AO Member Forum Schedule, Questionnaires and Recordings (All Forums Start at 8 pm ET):