The USSF presidential candidates answered a questionnaire from the Athletes Council, and oh my God this election is so depressing I could just weep.
Anyway, Kyle Martino thought it would be a good idea if we restrict qualifiers to places where, shall we say, diversity isn’t an issue.
….A clear way the arrangement affects the players was the decision to have a World Cup Qualifier at Red Bull Arena against Costa Rica. Home World Cup Qualifiers are crucial, which is why home teams go to great lengths to tip the competitive advantage in their favor. Even the length of the grass is meticulously planned. Having played Costa Rica in a WCQ at old Saprissa Stadium I can tell you this from personal experience, it was terrifying.
SUM is the marketing partner for CONCACAF so it made a business decision, without consulting the coach of the National Team, to prioritize profit, which gave our competition an advantage by hosting a game in a location that would produce the highest turnout of their fans. Bryan Ruiz spoke in an interview after the game about how enjoyable it was to play in front of so many of their fans saying “we felt very, very comfortable.” This decision contributed to the US failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia, costing our Federation tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. It’s a decision that never would have been made without this conflict of interest.
US Soccer loudly denied that SUM picked the World Cup qualifier locations without consulting the coaches of the national team (at the time, Klinsmann and his staff). I will cheerfully let real reporters decide whether Martino is even telling the truth here. Sure, it’s bad that a candidate is making wild accusations, and when called on it has been completely silent. But that’s not the worst part of this.
Red Bull Arena, for those of you who came here as a result of a laughably misguided Google search for bullfighting on the Eastern Seaboard, is as of this writing the most central soccer stadium for the New York City metropolitan area. If SUM demanded that the US play an important game there, then good for SUM. The United States men’s national team should play in the largest metropolitan area in the United States. It’s where the fans, and potential fans, are.
“But Dan! We need to schedule qualifiers away from where opposition fans are!”
According to the Migration Policy Institute, Costa Rica has fewer immigrants in the entire country than there are in Newark, New Jersey.
Wait, I’m sorry – I mean about one third as many people than there are in Newark, New Jersey. If you go by population in America, Costa Rica has fewer fans here than any other team that has ever made the Hexagonal. There are twice as many people here from Trinidad, and nearly nine times as many from Canada.
The President of the United States Soccer Federation should not be saying that New York is a no-go area for any World Cup qualifier.
I know what Bryan Ruiz said. Bryan Ruiz was complimenting his fans, and/or rubbing our noses in it. He was not repeat not thinking about what would be the best scheduling policy for the US Soccer Federation.
Naturally, inevitably, in the same questionnaire Martino talks about outreach to the Latino talent pool. Call me crazy, but I don’t think “Play for us, but don’t watch us” is gonna work as a marketing tactic.
Martino has this uncontrollable habit of making unsupported insinuations. Either he’s completely stupid about it, or he thinks we are. This is Kyle, talking about making the USSF presidency a paid gig:
Almost every candidate in this race is still working at their real job while they run, and many have said that they’d continue to need to do so once accepting the role.
The Athletes Council asked every candidate about their employment, including Martino. You only say something like this if it’s true, or if you think no one will check it.
As it turns out, the other candidates’ answers are on the very same website. Martino, then, must have pretty solid evidence that
If elected, I will resign my position.
Oh, thanks, Kathy. But I’m sure that
I will approach the position as a full-time job with a view toward resigning from all my current commitments.
That’s good to hear, Paul. Anyway, as I was
I worked in international finance for over 30 years, but am now fully retired.
Oh, I didn’t know that, Carlos, interesting. But while we can
I did take a leave of absence upon deciding to run which took effect on December 7, 2017.
Yeah, I guess it would be tough for Eric to be a Fox analyst and USSF President both. But this is a real
I am currently self-employed, speaking globally about equality and leadership.
Oh, right, Hope is her own boss, isn’t she just?
So, except for Kyle Martino, Eric Wynalda, Carlos Cordeiro, Kathy Carter, Paul Caligiuri and Hope Solo, many of the candidates have said they would continue their current jobs.
Two out of eight, that counts as "many," right?
So Kyle Martino said irresponsible and disqualifying things to the Athlete Council. Surprisingly, Hope Solo did not. She said irresponsible and disqualifying things on the podcast “I Never,” where she had host Brant Pinvidic played the classic college drinking game.
I’m kidding. But I’d watch the hell out of that. The podcast is “Why I’m Not,” and the topic of the week completes the sentences. Hope Solo’s topic was “Going to Be President of the United States Soccer Federation.”
The Solo portion of the interview begins at 26:38. You can more or less listen until 33:06, because for about five minutes Hope is very interesting on her outlook and background. But yeah, about five minutes of Hope Solo is about all we can stand. Then Pinvidic asks her about being controversial.
I’m going to transcribe Pinvidic’s question, because it is insane.
PINVIDIC: I have so many questions about sort of the past and the history and how you got here. I think what was really interesting was that you became sort of this big figure, very popular, sex symbol early, and people just sort of gravitated toward you, but that aggression that people saw, it was like this weird backlash for almost no reason. You backed it up, like anybody else in any of those other sports, yet it didn’t fit because it was a sort of female thing. And I think it really sort of hit that head when you started in on the pay scale in women’s sports. You were like, “Why would we all get paid the same? I’m the one putting asses in the seats. There’s two of us that are making all of this work, and you guys are rookies coming in. Why would we all get paid the same?” And you were saying the team itself was like “Yeah, that’s probably okay with us.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Solo should have responded, but did not.
SOLO: It’s almost been fed into us, that we’re a team and we all should be treated the same. Yet the player on the bench is not the same as Carli Lloyd, three-time World Player of the Year. So why should a younger player who doesn’t have the merit that Carli Lloyd does, doesn’t have the experience, doesn’t have as many goals, why should she get paid the same as Carli Lloyd? It doesn’t make sense to me. And it would never happen in men’s professional sports.
PINVIDIC: No, and what I find so outrageous about that is that it would never be proposed in a male sport, for sure. But beyond that, beyond proposing it as the organization or the team itself, or the owners propose, this is what we want to do, forget that side of it. That’s outrageous on its own. But what’s more telling about the psychology of where we are today, was, your teammates were like, “Yeah, that’s fine.” They voted that that would be okay.
SOLO: Yeah, it still hurts me to think about that, that phone call that day, that conference call. It’s a sense of safety when everyone gets paid the same. It’s a part of the culture. Some female athletes don’t want other female athletes to be considered better than them, or more worthy than them. It’s a horrible culture to be in, and I lived in it for twenty plus years trying to fight these fights and these battles. We want equality. We say we want equality. Well then, we have do it amongst ourselves in the locker room. It’s a merit-based system. And that’s what is equal between women’s professional sports and men’s professional sports, is if we go off a merit-based system.
As you are probably aware, national teams pay the same rate to all their players. Clubs do not, of course.
Confusingly, the next topic was about NWSL salaries, and how they fall short of a living wage. But there is no way that Solo was referring to NWSL salaries, because Solo herself would have been paid that substandard wage by the Seattle Reign. To paraphrase Solo, she made more money than her expenses, more than $8,000, more than $15,000, enough to live off of.
She’s right, of course, those are pitifully small salaries, and quality of play will suffer because of it. But the contract that US women’s national team players signed made certain that US women’s national team players would not be the ones drawing salaries that small.
Maybe you agree with Hope that stars should be paid more for international appearances than less experienced or famous or meritorious players. But this amount of fact-mangling would be horrifying – IS horrifying – coming from merely one of the player negotiators. It’s completely unacceptable for a potential President of the USSF.
The adversarial relationship between the USSF and its national team players has been an ongoing embarrassment for decades, over many different administrators. But at least Kathy Carter or Carlos Cordeiro will read the damned contracts.
It would be nice to think that hostility towards USSF animated Solo’s comments, but it’s nothing compared to her hostility towards her USSF teammates.
SOLO: The culture of the US team is to be the girl next door. The “ponytail posse.” And I was a very strong voice for injustices early on in my career. I was very intense. I had a different mentality, and it wasn’t always popular. It’s still amongst the team’s culture to be innocent and that girl next door, and I assure you, my teammates are not innocent.
Yeah, I suppose it’s barely possible that no one at this point has heard of Abby Wambach (who, in fairness, was not out during her playing days) or Megan Rapinoe (the first white pro athlete to kneel in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, in case you’ve forgotten, like Solo obviously has). Look, when you’re throwing your teammates under the bus, you gotta rev up the engine a little, know what I’m saying?
It seemed so promising. Solo rightly called out her former agent for pushing her to do nude pictorials, and yes, she did intelligently explain why the ESPN Body issue was different from Playboy. She also brought up the harassment culture that exists in women’s sports that has not, yet, hit women’s soccer.
And then she decided to do Carli Lloyd another favor.
I’m sure if you like you can find out exactly what Solo said, but it’s enough for our purposes that she cemented her reputation as a petty, jealous, vindictive hypocrite.
So yeah, she’s perfect for USSF President.
I’ve been very mean and unfair about Riccardo Silva, the concerned citizen who has found a kindred spirit in Eric Wynalda. So, in the interests of unbiased equal time, here is a link to a very positive article about Silva. I think this sums up where he’s coming from, and his connection to the good of the American game.
International Opulence Magazine. For those who think the only problem with Chuck Blazer was his subtlety.
That was depressing, wasn’t it? Okay, here, how about some grand, pretentious, over-arching wool-gathering musings on the nature of fandom instead of ending on USSF election derpidity.
Kurtis Larson of the Toronto Something or Other is back in the news, because yesterday he said something silly about women’s soccer. I don’t need to join the chorus of people stomping on his back over that. But it did remind me that a few weeks ago Larson was talking about the Crew potentially moving to Austin. And he was wrong, boy was he wrong, just as wrong as a ham sandwich with ketchup. During that argument, he Tweeted out this:
The Toronto Sun, now that I think about it. That’s probably what he writes for.
Larson got murdered for that, because how dare anyone say that soccer isn’t an avatar for the Very Most Important Things in the World. Air, water, soccer, and maybe not in that order. I think the vitriol behind the reaction to what Larson said comes from a sense of self-conscious embarrassment. It’s that we should know better than to care about things that distract us from work and sleep.
You know what else is entertainment? Music, poetry, art. Show me how people pass their leisure time, and I’ll tell you all about them. Distracted. Spiritual. Powerless. Angry. Playful. Loud. Rebellious. Noble. Stupid. Fun.
Of course soccer is entertainment. Whoever said entertainment wasn’t important?
Many of the membership have helped grow this game as volunteers and want to be repaid by a President who serves THEM.
Kyle, why would the membership want a President who serves giant radioactive ants?!
Sorry, I couldn’t bear to cut this out entirely.
Update: Martino was asked directly by World Soccer Talk about his accusation of SUM interference, at 1:01:18.
He began his answer at 1:01:55.
He finished his answer at 1:09:09.
If anyone is searching for a professional podcast transcriber, keep walking, buddy.
Q: Earlier this week you made some serious allegations about Soccer United Marketing to the USSF Athletes Council in your written interview, and specifically that equity stakeholders in Soccer United Marketing that also are on the USSF Board are involved in contracts, and I think that there’s a very messy situation here in terms of lack of RFPs, lack of transparency, all of that stuff. Are you in a position to elaborate further on what specifically you were talking about, or at least give us some clarity as to it?
MARTINO: Yeah, thanks for offering me that. Because it did create a buzz, and listen. I knew that it was going to create the hysteria that it did. And that’s not why I did it. The compliment, and I’m appreciative, thank you, Chris, for that compliment about NBC and the work we do. I’m the only American voice on the Premier League, not because I played in the Premier League or I was some phenomenal player, just because I’ve established a credible reputation, and I’m not salacious, I’m not looking for a soundbite. And the last time I did something like this was actually a US Soccer situation. I was on set at RFK at halftime of a Major League Soccer game, and I was very critical of Martin Vasquez. And so that situation is similar to this one in a few ways. I had heard from several people that were knowledgeable. There was a situation going on where Martin wasn’t executing, and was put in a position as a number two, to have too much pressure and was not of the level of Jogi Loew or someone that could handle that, and create a game plan for the weekend and execute it during the week. So I’d heard that, but that’s not enough. It’s not good journalism just to take a few players’ comments and then go to the press. So I went and observed and I watched several training days and several training camps, and realized that they were right. And right when Juergen was hired, we all knew that Jogi Loew was a big part of what was successful about that. So this is not groundbreaking. But I went on the set, and I was critical of Martin Vasquez saying he was not executing and was not I think qualified for what was being asked of him. And that night, when I got off the set, I got a call from US Soccer, and they wanted me to talk to Juergen, and Juergen got on the phone with me, and this was days before a qualifier at the Azteca against Mexico. So it was already troubling to me that they thought it was important enough, leading up to such a huge game, to chastise me, and Juergen was really upset that I said that, and basically told me don’t do that anymore. And I got banned from press meetings coming up. And I wasn’t allowed to have access, as other members of the media were, to have access to players and coaches. And NBC put their foot down, and said “We’re not going to cover anything anymore if you do that. Because right Kyle did this in an ethical way, he’s a fantastic pundit, and he operated within very strict guidelines we have for covering soccer and making these comments in the right way. And they immediately reversed their decision, and then what happened a few months later, Martin Vasquez was fired, and replaced before the World Cup, which was a shocking decision. Now, I don’t believe for a second it was because of me. And we should all hope it wasn’t because of me, because that’s even scarier. But I was right then.
And listen. The Red Bull Arena stadium situation, and I realize that’s a very delicate scenario. And I realize I come from a different vantage point of playing in World Cup qualifiers, and going to Saprissa Stadium and walking through riot police as rocks were being thrown and sitting in that locker room with plaster hitting us on the head because the fans were jumping so high and loud and strong, and then walking out to a stadium where we sat there for our national anthem and they booed during it, and playing in World Cup qualifiers where to the millimeter they figured out what they want the grass to look like, to make it hard for us. So, that’s where I come from when I talk about competition and having a competitive advantage.
So instead of getting into the weeds of the arrangement, here’s what I have to say. Really what I wanted to point to, and lend my credibility towards, and that’s what I’m able to do. Listen, if I’m absolutely dead wrong, then I’ve lost a tiny bit of credibility, but it was for the better of this game. Because I cashed it in to get transparency that doesn’t exist. The biggest problem I was trying to point out is, if the arrangement between MLS, SUM and US Soccer – and let me just say, an arrangement that at its creation was a very smart idea, that saved Major League Soccer, that has been incredibly beneficial to the growth of so many things in this game. But with how opaque that relationship is, and the conflict of interests that, if only perceived, are seriously corrosive and detrimental to the brand of soccer in this country, the fact that no answers have ever come forward to help assuage our concerns, that there are diminishing returns to that relationship. I decided I would lend my credibility to get some answers. And it wasn’t a shot in the dark. Bruce Arena was someone who was willing to, and others weren’t, be on record to allow me to say I spoke with him. And in US Soccer’s comments about that game, they say they consult coaches. They consult coaches directly to ask them about decisions, for a fact, that Bruce Arena said “We can’t play there.” And listen, Bruce Arena has more World Cup qualifying experience than anyone in this country, and he said, “We can’t play there, it’s the worst possible place for us to play this game, I want to move it.” And they said no. They didn’t listen to Bruce then. And don’t tell me if you’re consulting national team coaches, the coaches of the women’s team want to play on turf. I promise you they don’t. So they’re not listening to those coaches.
So really what I wanted to highlight is two things. How are these decisions being made? Who’s making them? And why are they making the decisions that I think are not prioritizing competitive advantage. And I really think it’s hard to debunk that. There are decisions that are not made in the interests and priority of competitive advantage in World Cup qualifiers. Friendlies are a totally different picture. So that’s one piece of this. I’m basically creating a binary situation, where it’s either incompetence - we’re making bad decisions because the right people aren’t making them, or we’re not listening to people - or, it’s because there’s a relationship that is so muddled and hard to understand, and has never been explained to us, that is overlapping the decision-makers, because Sunil and Don sit on the US Soccer Board, and they were part of the creation and founding of SUM. So again, I give them so much credit for that, that was the right thing to do, and it was great that they did it. It was a very good strategic move. But if there’s still overlap, and no one has told us that there isn’t, if there’s still overlap, then saying that US Soccer that unilaterally makes these decisions, it’s a distinction without a difference if there are still people who sit on multiple boards and have multiple benefits to these decisions.
I don’t have definitive proof of these things. I just have people that have been in these rooms and have been a part of these discussions. But what we all have is zero understanding of how this relationship works. And we have to get answers to that. They owe us answers. And if the answer is “Kyle, you’re wrong, this is unfounded,” I actually would prefer that, because even if my credibility took a hit, we would finally understand what this relationship is, and no one can give you a straight answer.
I think that answer speaks for itself.
But I'm going to jump in anyway.
Martino did not get the information. His accusation was shot down nearly instantly. We know nothing we didn't know yesterday or last week. Public accusations without evidence only benefit the accused. Ask Dan Rather, George W. Bush, and the Alabama Air National Guard.
The reason Martino damaged his credibility isn't because he made a false accusation. Well, okay, that's part of the reason. But he showed himself someone who expected USSF, if they are corrupt, to make a full and immediate confession - rather than jump all over any weakness in the charges. USSF has more credibility now, and Martino has less. It's a good thing Martino told us he's a fantastic pundit, because based on that I wouldn't let him call a foosball tournament at the rec center.
And if that is the worst, most egregious thing that Martino could have come up with - that SUM demanded the USSF play in the largest city in the country - if that's the biggest conflict of interest, if that is the most solid charge he could come up with? Then SUM is nothing anyone should worry about. Bruce Arena's fears are not facts. New York was and is a perfectly reasonable place to play, for both promotion and competitive standards.
The only reason anyone had any hesitation about playing Costa Rica in a large diverse metropolitan area, I believe, is because people who should know better can't tell Central Americans apart.
And seeing as how Bruce Arena said this before the game:
“We’re playing at home and I don’t care what anyone says, we have a home-field advantage,” he said. “We have great support.”
Well, if it's okay, I'm going to take him at his word before he was trying to salvage his reputation, rather than afterwards.
Martino should have known better before. He does know better now. There's no evidence for his accusation except, not to put to fine a point on it, anonymous or misinformed prejudices. And there's nothing to even connect SUM to this - it's easy to see why USSF would want to make inroads in New York, even without Don Garber's prompting.
And yet he doubled down.
I don't know what all that crap was about Martin Vasquez, either.