Gulati calls an end to his US presidency after 12 years at the top

December 5 – After considerable reflection Sunil Gulati has ruled himself out of contesting the presidential election for the US Soccer Federation (USSF). Gulati is standing aside after the United States’ abject failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and having been head of the USSF for 12 years.

His decision does not affect his membership of the all-powerful FIFA Council or his role as head of the US-Canada-Mexico 2026 World Cup bid committee.

Gulati, whose decision follows that of national coach Bruce Arena to step down, went public with the news to ESPN saying he opted not to go for a fourth term despite “many people in different positions” telling him he should carry on.

“In the end, I think the best thing for me personally, and for the federation, is to see someone new in the job,” he said.

Gulati described the US defeat to Trinidad and Tobago in their final qualifier for Russia as “painful, regrettable and led to a lot of strong emotions.”

“To be honest, I think at this point, that’s overshadowed a lot of other things that are important. So fair or not, I accept that and think it’s time for a new person.”

Whilst Gulati did much to put the sport on the map in the United States, including the successful bid for the 1994  World Cup, next year’s tournament is the first the US will miss since 1986.

The ballot for his successor takes place in February with seven candidates so far declaring an interest including former US internationals Eric Wynalda, Kyle Martino, and Paul Caliguri, Steve Gans, a former player turned attorney who has advised Premier League clubs on their business and is very involved with youth programmes and coaching; Mike Winograd, who played professionally in Israel; Paul Lapointe, a soccer administrator; and former Goldman Sachs banker Carlos Cordeiro, Gulati’s vice president who surprisingly said he would run against him and who would be very much seen as the continuity candidate in terms of the non-domestic focus of the US’s ambitions.

Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter has said that she is also considering running for the presidency.

“I’ve met all seven who have declared their candidacies,” Gulati, who ran unopposed in 2006, 2010 and 2014, told ESPN. “I think several of them would be in for a pretty big shock about what the job is – it’s not just about national teams. It’s about 4 million registered players, referees, medical safety, grassroots stuff. It feels like that stuff gets ignored sometimes.”

But Martino had little doubt it was the right call.  “This is the right move,” said Martino. “It’s an indication that Sunil has recognised a need for change, and he can now focus on the 2026 World Cup bid, which is critical for the growth of the game in the US.”

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