U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told reporters on a conference call on Friday that he will not resign in the wake of the US men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup earlier this week.
Gulati, who has served as USSF president since 2006, said he will decide “in the coming weeks” if he’ll run for re-election when his seat is up in February. There has been considerable public pressure for him to leave his post since the US lost at Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday to miss their first World Cup since 1986.
“No, I don’t plan to resign,” he said. “It’s not the right day for me to talk about my personal future plans in terms of the federation’s presidency.”
Three other candidates – former USMNT forward Eric Wynalda, Paul Lapointe and Steve Gans – have expressed their interest in the presidency in recent months. All will be competing for delegates when the election is held at USSF’s annual general meeting in Orlando, scheduled for February 8-11.
U.S. Soccer guidelines allow Gulati to run for one more four-year term. First elected in March 2006, Gulati oversaw the hiring of Bob Bradley in late 2006 and the hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann in 2011. Gulati then gave Klinsmann a four-year contract extension prior to the 2014 World Cup, only to fire him with roughly two years left on the deal. Back-to-back losses in the opening two games of November's CONCACAF Hexagonal last November preceded the final stroke.
Also during Gulati's tenure, the US women’s national team won the 2015 World Cup and the 2012 London Olympics gold medal.
In addition to duties overseeing U.S. Soccer’s various national team programs, Gulati serves on FIFA’s Executive Committee and is leading the US’s joint bid with Mexico and Canada to host the 2026 World Cup. The bid is due to FIFA in March, with a decision on the host set to be made next June.
While he didn’t commit to whether he would run, Gulati did say that he’s “reached out to people about endorsing me or nominating me in the last few weeks.” Asked why delegates should vote for him if he chooses to run for another term, Gulati referenced the “totality” of his tenure atop USSF.
“I look at the totality of where we’ve come from and where the game is generally now with our professional leagues, with player development, with our economic resources, all of those things,” he said. “Those things didn’t happen overnight and they didn’t happen on their own. So, if I think if you look at all of that, I’ll make a decision and voting delegates can make a decision.”
He struck a similar tone when asked later in the call why he won’t resign despite the USMNT’s failure to qualify for Russia.
“Because [of] where the sport is now, and the role I played in it, and the role I think I could play going forward if I choose to run,” he said. “Plus, we have the World Cup bid. The sport is in a very, very different place than it was 10 years ago or 30 years ago when I first got involved, so it’s all of that.”
Gulati, who took issue with the notion presented by a reporter that most federation presidents would resign if their men’s national team experienced a similar failure, said that he “can understand the frustration” fans have with him and admitted that he would change how he handled certain things in the runup to the USMNT’s failure to qualify.
“All of us involved in the game are also passionate about the team and are extraordinary disappointed in every possible way, starting with me and everyone on our staff and everything else,” he said. “So what you say is none of us is happy about not going, but the one thing this has reconfirmed is the passion and support we have for the team has grown tremendously.
“We’ll do everything we can to get the team and the program and all of our teams back on track so that we’re successful. We’re not always going to be successful, that’s for sure. But this is a big shock to the system. We understand that and we understand how much anger, frustration, disappointment and hurt there is from Tuesday night.”