USSF Presidential Election Questionnaire: Kyle Martino

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 Kyle Martino’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. 

Questions

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

I would bring with me to the presidency two essential sets of experiences: soccer experiences and business/management experiences. 

On the soccer side, I have played at all levels of the game in the United States. I also have received intimate access to and knowledge of one of the (if not the) world’s great soccer leagues—the EPL—through my work as an analyst on NBC’s Premier League coverage. 

On the business and management side, I worked on an executive team at Lenox Advisors managing multimillion dollar accounts and signing billion dollar clients. I spearheaded the team who signed Pfizer as a corporate client, an accomplishment one of the partners of Lenox mentioned in their endorsement letter for me. It can be found on my site, www.everyonesgameusa.com

I also am part of the Ownership Group for Real Mallorca. My role and experience there is also highlighted in the letter of endorsement they wrote for me. Also available on my site. Mallorca is a century old club with great tradition and I am charged with helping restore their pedigree by bringing them back up to La Liga. I’m involved in all financial, technical and strategic decisions we make as an Ownership Group. 

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

US Soccer needs to clarify the paths that exist for youth players in the United States, and we need to increase access for the underprivileged and underrepresented by subsidizing fees and building facilities. Our priorities are upside down with regard to youth development. As we continue to attempt to fix the problem with top down approaches, the pay-to-play epidemic only gets exacerbated. 

The governance structures I would create to improve youth development immediately after entering office would be to hire a Technical Director and assemble a “Captains Council” of technical advisors from all levels and dicsiplines. Many of the development errors we have made in the past would never had passed the quality control test this council will provide. It will also provide a valuable brain trust that’s constantly monitoring progress and discussing best practices from the 55 associations as well as international programs. That is why I have asked people like Thierry Henry to offer their knowledge, experience, and network.

Managing the youth soccer organizations will be a challenge due to the tribal community we have created through market confusion and competition. This infighting has metastasized largely through the Federation’s mismanagement. Not only has the Federation created competition in this space by not designing clear market standards, but also, at times, the Federation has actually competed with its own members.

My plan to lead these organizations has already begun:

I. First, we must demonstrate a desire to lead, after which we must reestablish trust in that leadership. Then, we can empower and enlist these groups to help us make technical decisions that affect our members. There is an appetite among the youth organizations to work together towards a common goal. US Youth, US Club, AYSO & SAY are already having quarterly meetings in an attempt to eradicate the rivalries that threaten the prosperity of all. These meetings offer great suggestions and progressive ideas, yet without the commitment of the Federation to facilitate and execute, momentum is lost and pessimism grows. Here are a few points from my plan to improve this space: Empower our State Associations:

a.     Attend and support the quarterly meetings already taking place between US Youth Soccer, US Club Soccer, AYSO & SAY;
b.     At least one meeting a year must have President, CEO & Technical Director all present;
c.     Technical Director must attend every meeting in person or by Video/Voice conferencing.

II.     A comprehensive review of all mandates and repeal, if necessary, those detrimental to local organizations;

III.     Create a best practices & collaboration agreement between USYSA, AYSO, SAY, USCS:

a.     Agree on mutually beneficial antitrust restrictions;
b.     Create escalating fine structure for breach of agreement (judged by Domestic Resolution Committee I will create);
c.     Institute market entry requirements for the creation of new youth entities. 

Ultimately, however, the best, most permanent thing that we can do to fix youth soccer is to create a soccer culture and just let the talent develop organically.  

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

Under my presidency, coaching at all levels will become more accessible, affordable, and multicultural. At the national team level, the choice of MNT coach and WNT coach will be a transparent process decided upon by the Technical Director and Captain’s Council—in other words, people who know soccer.    

Concrete coaching ideas: 

a.     Earmark 10% of annual budget towards Latino Initiatives focused on coaching education, insurance for adult leagues, field construction;
b.    Lower cost of coaching license. It’s one of the most expensive in the world.
 — One idea is to follow Indiana Youth’s model. They made Coaching courses free by charging each player $3 more on their registration fee.
— Learn from and attempt to institute Association’s best practices (i.e Alabama’s “Start Healthy” program or Indiana’s “Free Coaching Ed” initiative).

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 the National Team games regularly. What will you do to address affordability and access to games?

Lower ticket prices, of course. I was speechless and incredulous to see a USSF presentation given at the last board meeting that bragged about increasing ticket revenue by hosting games in smaller stadiums but selling tickets at much higher prices. It’s clear that they do not understand what grows a culture and creates an atmosphere. We are so lucky to have American Outlaws helping us to overcome the Federation’s mistakes to ensure our teams have strong support wherever they go. Now, it’s time we support the fans.

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

Everyone in this country, regardless of proximity to metropolitan areas, should have a chance to see our National Teams near their homes. It’s essential when scheduling friendly matches that we rotate locations to ensure we touch nearly every market. However, when scheduling World Cup Qualifiers, competitive advantage should be the first priority. Playing for the U.S. in a World Cup Qualifier, I saw firsthand how difficult it is to win a game in an unfriendly stadium. You all have witnessed it as fans as well when you travel abroad to support our teams. I think its time we serious consider having two national stadiums that become the grounds that archive great memories for us, and nightmares for our opponents.

6. How do you envision the ideal game day experience for fans attending a U.S. Soccer game?

To be honest, I have not experienced games as a fan enough to answer this question. This is where, as President, I would call on you to help us understand how we can support your efforts to provide U.S. Soccer fans with the greatest game day experience of any sport.

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

I have already proved how I will do this. I invited 20 people to my Summit in NYC. That boardroom was a diverse group of people I deem essential to building a plan for our soccer future. I had an AO representative there and will always make sure a fan is included in decisions that impact the game you love and support.

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

Fans need to get behind a leader with a soccer vision, and when my Progress Plan is published January 15th, it will be clear I’m the only candidate with a true vision for taking this game to the next level. I also think at this inflection point, I offer the soccer nous and integrity that will protect us from the failures we are living through right now. Lastly, I am one of you. Right now, we need to avoid those who are fans of the job, and elect a fan of the game.

NOTE: Kyle Martino will be taking questions from AO members in a LIVE, moderated online forum on Tuesday, January 9th at 8pm ET. All members were emailed a link and password to participate in viewing the forum, submitting questions to Mr. Martino, 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):