National Writer: Charles Boehm

US Soccer board passes new policies on hiring equity, discriminatory chants

U.S. Soccer moved forward on new policies around equity and discrimination on Friday, as the federation’s board of directors convened in the wake of the landmark equal-pay collective bargaining agreements with the men’s and women’s national teams unveiled earlier in the week.

Prohibiting discriminatory chants

After what president Cindy Parlow Cone called “a historic couple of days we’ve had,” the BoD approved Policy 521-2, which prohibits discriminatory chants at international games sanctioned or managed by U.S. Soccer.

That codifies USSF’s adoption of the FIFA and Concacaf procedures set up to address the incidence of homophobic chants like those sometimes heard at Mexican national team matches, and mandates that promoters apply the three-step process of stopping, suspending and eventually abandoning play when such chants occur. On Friday the policy’s language was adjusted to empower not just teams or match authorities but anyone in attendance to file complaints about such chants.

Improving diverse representation

Meeting in Frisco, Texas ahead of the National Soccer Hall of Fame induction events set for Toyota Stadium this weekend, the board also updated the federation’s policies on fairness and diversity in its hiring practices for coaches and executives to reflect gender as well as racial and ethnic equity.

Explaining why the matter has become a top focus for the organization, USSF CEO Will Wilson presented data about recent hiring processes for coaching vacancies in which a pool of only six out of the 60 to 70 applicants for women’s/girls’ youth national team jobs were women. Meanwhile, a pool of some 120 applicants for men’s/boys’ youth national team jobs contained zero women.

“The theme we heard the most in every group is, why? Why is that the case?” said Wilson. “Why are females not coming forward and placing themselves in as an applicant to these positions? What is preventing them from doing so? What are the barriers? What are the issues around that?

“This effort needs a broad commitment, not just from U.S. Soccer, but the landscape as well, to really make meaningful change.”

During that discussion board member and former USMNT and Philadelphia Union defender Oguchi Onyewu urged the federation to apply particular urgency to the matter of Black representation in those positions, at the grassroots and across the sport as a whole.

“Not just coaching, but executive-level positions should be able to reflect the diversity that our player pool does. And right now at this current moment, it does not,” said Onyewu. “So I would like to create a discussion to be able to move that needle and shift and push for higher representation numbers, or have a goal by 2030.”

Federation officials also discussed the ongoing work of a governance task force, including a possible code of conduct for board members, and USSF’s latest fiscal data, which shows an improved revenue picture from stronger-than-expected ticket sales for national team matches but also increased budget costs as well.

The board will meet again next month in Austin around the USMNT’s Concacaf Nations League match vs. Grenada at Q2 Stadium, then again in August and January before next year’s annual general meeting, set for March 16-17 in San Diego.