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 Steve Gans’ 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.
- What leadership experience and leadership style makes you qualified to be USSF President?
The role of USSF President calls for one with a unique combined background: namely, a professional with deep experience in organizational leadership, and with significant and successful business experience, AND one with deep, broad and continuous soccer experience throughout the soccer world. My experience in soccer started early – I played from youth, through to professional. I’ve coached, and cheered on as a proud parent on the sidelines. I’ve been a pro executive, Development Academy Board member, a World Cup organizer and attorney, and an advisor and consultant to players and clubs, from youth to the Premier League. I know how much U.S. Soccer can do. I am proud of being a ‘soccer guy’ first who eventually translated my skills into the law, while still maintaining my leadership within the soccer community.
My style is unique amongst the candidates. I have a strong understanding of how due process and transparency leads to results and faith in an organization. I am committed to being accountable in my actions – the buck will stop with me, and I expect to be held to the highest ethical standards. I am proud of my collaborative approach, and deeply enjoy listening to the views of those I represent, in all lines of work, and especially amongst the U.S. Soccer Community. Decisions will be made iteratively with those in the field and trenches, and the edicts from 30,000 feet above which have regrettably been common, will not occur in my administration. Additionally, I am proactive, and was proud to have entered this race with a platform (Leadership being a central tenet of it) and vision that stands, regardless of whether the MNT qualified for the World Cup Finals. Many of these traits are unique to me, and well-suited for a not-for-profit, like U.S. Soccer, with a broad-based, and passionate membership.
- What changes will you make to youth development in this country? Can you provide a timeline of the changes that you envision?
Throughout this campaign, I have consistently heard that U.S. Soccer needs to be more responsive to the state associations, especially around youth development. For that reason, I would conduct a soccer summit in my first sixty days in office, to allow representatives of the USSF membership to discuss key issues that directly impact their roles in player development and programming. This will enable us to gather input from those on the ground who will implement any changes we are to make.
Development Academy: It’s imperative U.S. Soccer establishes a youth culture that is accessible, and maintains the joy, creativity, and confidence of young players. As a former Board Member and advisor to a Development Academy (DA) club, and parent of two DA players, I have been in the trenches. U.S. Soccer must stop developing uninformed, knee-jerk and naive edicts from 30,000 feet above, the results of which are often counterproductive. For instance, some of the DA rules and strictures are ruinous to producing players who play with joy and passion. Players from U9 to the DA should compete in a professional, yet fun environment (yes – all the way through the DA!), in order to produce players that are creative and confident, and not robots, and to overcome soccer’s high attrition rates at the youth levels.
Pay to Play: Some of the U.S. Soccer surplus should be used to defray “Pay to Play” costs through scholarships to provide opportunities to players who otherwise might be shut out of the system. We must encourage talented, underprivileged kids to continue playing, and to remove the exclusive barrier of financial constraints. We can also support development of facilities, including small-sided fields in urban areas like those in England (and rural areas) to provide further playing opportunities on a casual level.
Coaching: We simply need better coaches at the youth level. If clubs are going to be the primary source of youth development, then U.S. Soccer needs to advance the idea of “teaching the teachers.” Coaching education must be a priority. Similarly, we need to have more competent U.S. Soccer scouts around the country so that the pipeline to U.S. soccer is open to every corner of this country.
Player Identification: There has to be an effective early-age identification process so that players with great potential are fast-tracked and receive additional training. With my technical advisors (former National Team and other team players), we will look to develop regional training centers, similar to those employed in other parts of the world (but modulated to fit unique American mores and conditions). Finally, a top-notch National Technical Director should be hired to work with the youth national coaching staff, the DA (and DA policy setters) and club DOCs. I would seek to build the criteria for identification, training, and development as soon as reasonably possible through my Presidency, but would not rush the decision-making process. It is important U.S. Soccer gets this right.
- In what ways will coaching in the United States change under your leadership?
As I mentioned above, an exceptional National Technical Director must be in place to set the standard for our youth national staff, development academy teams and our club DOC’s. We must demand excellence in coaching because it has the greatest direct impact on our players.
At more local levels, I want to reduce prices of coaching education, improve accessibility for parents to become coaches, and explore best practices across other models, in collaboration with a National Technical Director. Coaches (coaching the right way) are imperative to reducing attrition rates for youth players, and serve as important leaders to kids working their way through, and up the soccer system. The pathway to coaching licenses – especially at the early licenses – needs to be easier than present. The ratio of licensed coaches to players needs to be improved. For our more elite players, I point to my statements earlier about the DA. The Youth Council Technical Working Group will encourage feedback from state associations and other contributors, wherein national team staff actually listens and is more transparent in establishing player development initiatives.
At the national team levels, I would look to establish a committee of technical experts to advise the USSF Board on critical hires. The selection must be made through an experienced, well-reasoned, collegial, committee-based process. I would bring together individuals with the right experience – former National team players along with soccer executives with direct experience in this area.
Furthermore, I would be extremely careful in my choices to award and/or extend the contracts of coaches. I would never have given Jurgen Klinsmann a four-year contract extension before a World Cup cycle. The $6.2 million in severance payments is damaging to U.S. Soccer (a non-profit organization), and I would do everything possible to structure a future contract in a manner which avoids a similar scenario.
- 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?
This is an issue of both fairness to U.S. Soccer fans as well as maximizing our competitive advantage in these competitions. We need to do our best to create extraordinary soccer environments for every U.S. National Team match.
We should create “family sections” with affordable tickets at every U.S. Soccer match and otherwise make it affordable. If the U.S. wants to grow the market and fan base we need to make it affordable to socio-economically disadvantaged groups, as well as soccer families – as I mention in Question 6, we want our young players and families to be able to attend.
We need to set ticket prices at a point where U.S. Soccer can still fund programs, but also sell out stadiums – there’s no point charging $60 for our cheapest tickets if we don’t sell out the game or if we shut out our most loyal supporters, or if we make attending games unrealistic for potential new fans.
- Describe what you will prioritize when choosing cities/venues to host matches for our national teams.
As I mention in the previous question, we must create compelling soccer environments for each and every US National Team match. We are all aware of the criticisms of the site selection in the recent MNT qualification failure. Playing Costa Rica in New York and Panama in Florida did not maximize our advantage as a home squad. We cannot put short term profits ahead of the on-field interests of U.S. Soccer’s national team program. There should be an ethical wall between the business side and competitive side in these decisions, and the national team staff should be consulted in the choice of playing sites.
My checklist for U.S. Soccer venues includes the following:
- Utilize the largest stadiums we can fill with U.S. fans in U.S. fan friendly markets
- Allow fans in every part of this country to see our national teams play
- When possible, prioritize stadiums in cities capable of bringing people easily to games
- Maximize use of top quality, natural grass playing surfaces
- Strongly consider competitive advantage in the selection process
- Both WNT and MNT must be treated equally, including site selection. Neither side should play in substandard facilities or on a sub-standard field.
- How do you envision the ideal game-day experience for fans attending a U.S. Soccer game?
I believe US Soccer can be more strategic in building an all-round experience for fans on game day. In order to be the pre-eminent sport in America, national team games have to build hype – a strong media presence and consistent national team identity should be developed – in order to set soccer apart from other sports.
We need young people, youth players, and families to be actively involved on game day. They each form the backbone of our soccer community. An exciting game day experience is a great recruiting tool for our state associations. Youth will see our national team members as role models. This will excite them about their own playing experience and deepen their engagement with our sport.
I envisage utilizing our world class infrastructure, with accessible, but packed venues, with large crowds in and around the stadiums. On this point, it is important to work with municipalities and cities, to co-ordinate a broader range of events that provide access to the game-day experience for those not in the stadium itself. Interactive events and tailgating will be expanded and encouraged. Creative interactive events such as a mini-Hall of Fame (traveling exhibit from the Soccer Hall of Fame) will be on site at games. We will engage corporate partners to sponsor this and other interactive events for fans. This work will also focus on security and a safe environment for all fans.
- How will your presidency incorporate the views of fans and include them in the governance of U.S. Soccer?
I’ve heard from many fans during this campaign that power has become entrenched at the executive levels of U.S. Soccer – making it inaccessible to member organizations, and not welcoming feedback from members or fans. Under my Presidency, I will ensure that U.S. Soccer is a non-profit organization that operates with improved corporate governance. Policies ensuring greater transparency, clear and decisive Conflict of Interest policies, and improved ethical guidelines will be quickly instituted – fans can hold me accountable to the performance of U.S. Soccer. In addition, I pledge to demonstrate effective leadership and judgment.
To that end, I want to improve U.S. Soccer’s communication channels with fans (such as through direct dialogue and surveys). As stated in my platform, a top to bottom review of the Soccer House in Chicago will be conducted, and ensuring improved communication with and respect shown to members and fans will be a high priority of this review. I want U.S. Soccer to be collaborative and accessible, and have Soccer House gather feedback directly from fans (as noted above) and through the professional leagues and youth and adult councils (that directly relates to the fans). The fact that two fan member representatives currently sit on the U.S. Soccer National Council is a good thing, and that commitment is of course something that will continue in my administration.
- Why should fans unite behind your candidacy for U.S. Soccer president?
Fans invest their hearts as well as their time and money in U.S. Soccer. As President, I will do everything to honor that investment. Fans want to trust U.S. Soccer to make decisions that are in the best interests of the game, for everyone, not a selected few. They want to see a leadership that is fair, transparent, and open to change, and which listens to key stakeholders, without any conflict of interest.
My vision is one of collaboration and inclusion, outlined through my platform, that seeks to incorporate each constituency – players, supporters, referees, administrators, and fans – in the decision-making process. Importantly, I have proven experience at bringing groups together and forging sincere solutions. Many fans recognize that I was first candidate in this election back in May of last year (before the October qualification disaster), and have appreciated the consistency of my intention to inject U.S. Soccer with improved leadership, transparency, reform, and fairness. I am part of our community. I don’t have all the answers, but I know the U.S. Soccer community has enough intelligent, committed supporters to find solutions to all our pressing concerns.
I have a unique combined background in soccer and business which fits this position. The President’s job calls for one with a vast and continuous soccer background combined with deep business and organizational leadership experience, and I am proud to say that I am the only candidate with that background. As an executive (President and COO) and attorney (General Counsel), I have led a complex company with 150 employees in a very competitive market. As an attorney at a law firm, I have counseled male and female professional players, professional teams and DA and other youth clubs, as well as billion dollar companies regarding their legal matters. As a community volunteer, I have sat on Boards of many prominent non-profit organizations of similar size to U.S. Soccer. Other than having been a professional referee, I have experience at every level of soccer – as a player, front office executive, coach, fan, parent, club board member and attorney – from youth to pro to the Premier League, and that experience has been deep and consistent for the last 30 years.
In this race we surely have people with most significant soccer experience (national team players), but without the necessary organizational leadership and business experience. Then we have a few people with most impressive business experience, but they lack the deep, broad and continuous soccer experience. I first announced my intention to run for President in May of 2017, and it has been slightly dizzying to see 7 new candidates jump in since the October World Cup qualifying failure. But I have been gratified that so many people – knowing that this job requires one with a rare combination of soccer and business experience – recognize that I am the only candidate with the necessary combination of experience and skills.
I recognize that the current administration has not always been as responsive as it could have been, and as President I will commit to helping the American Outlaws build their supporters base. I will participate in virtual town halls, teleconferences and appear at in-person appearances with the Outlaws.
NOTE: Steve Gan will be taking questions from AO members in a LIVE, moderated online forum on Monday, January 22nd at 8pm ET. This will be an AUDIO ONLY forum. 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):
- MONDAY, JANUARY 8TH: MICHAEL WINOGRAD
- TUESDAY, JANUARY 9TH: KYLE MARTINO
- MONDAY, JANUARY 15TH: KATHY CARTER
- TUESDAY, JANUARY 16TH: HOPE SOLO
- MONDAY, JANUARY 22ND: STEVE GANS
- Fan Issues Questionnaire
- AO Member Forum Video
- AO Member Forum Audio Only
- ERIC WYNALDA * DELAYED DUE TO TRAVEL CONFLICT (DATE: TBD)
- Fan Issues Questionnaire
- AO Member Forum Video
- AO Member Forum Audio Only
- PAUL CALIGIURI – AWAITING CONFIRMATION OF PARTICIPATION
- CARLOS CORDEIRO – AWAITING CONFIRMATION OF PARTICIPATION