Cindy Parlow Cone wins the presidency over Carlos Cordeiro


Cindy Parlow Cone, pictured in 2019, was re-elected President of US Soccer at the association’s annual meeting on Saturday. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, file)

Carlos Cordeiro, the former US soccer president who fell out of favor in 2020, failed to run for re-election on Saturday, losing to incumbent Cindy Parlow Cone.

Cone, a former international who helped elect Cordeiro in 2018 and rose to the presidency in 2020 after a year as vice president, won Saturday’s quadrennial election by a weighted vote of 785.12 to Cordeiro’s 698.26.

The 5.9 percentage point difference was the smallest margin in US soccer’s presidential history and symbolic of a close race that exposed fissures within the association’s membership.

“Wow,” Cone said with a huge sigh of relief as she opened her acceptance speech at US Soccer’s AGM in Atlanta. She will serve a full four-year term through winter 2026.

Cordeiro’s controversial presidential candidacy

Cordeiro, who won US soccer’s hottest presidential election in 2018, abruptly resigned on March 12, 2020 after the association used sexist language in court filings to defend itself in a legal battle with its women’s national team over equal pay.

US Soccer, through its attorneys, argued that “the overall soccer skills required to compete at the senior men’s national team level are materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes, such as speed and strength, required for the job.” , citing “the significantly higher level of speed and power required to accomplish the task of an MNT player” as the reason for pay discrepancies.

The submission sparked an immediate backlash from players, media, and even sponsors. Cordeiro apologized for the “insult and pain” he caused, but many in the American football community were not pleased. Several former USWNT players called for his downfall. A day after his apology, Cordeiro gave in to pressure and resigned.

Cone, then vice president, assumed the presidency. In nearly two years at the helm, she helped navigate US soccer through the pandemic and oversaw a revised legal strategy in the equal pay case. Just last month, US Soccer and the USWNT players agreed to a $24 million settlement. Cone reiterated Saturday that it was a “big win” for both sides.

Cone announced last year that she would seek re-election, and as the Jan. 4 nomination deadline neared, it seemed like she was running unopposed. But behind the scenes, Cordeiro had launched another campaign. On January 5, he announced that he would run again.

In an open letter posted to his personal website, before touting his achievements as president, he sought to explain the missteps that led to the sexist court filings. “I had several levels of oversight in place to ensure that the women’s national team’s litigation was conducted in accordance with our federation’s values,” he wrote. “In retrospect, I realize that a matter of this importance deserved much more personal oversight from me.”

In a final speech on Saturday’s election day, he reiterated that he had accepted responsibility for the “inexcusable” and “hurting” file. He said that over the past two years he has reflected and learned, and made a “commitment to do better, to be a better listener and a better partner.”

But the players weren’t convinced. When Cordeiro’s candidacy leaked out, Megan Rapinoe immediately tweeted that he “embarrassed everyone and everything with cavemanophobia.” More recently, as the election drew near, 32 USWNT players signed a Friday letter supporting Cone.

“We respect Cindy’s integrity, her passion for the game as a former player and coach, her pragmatic approach as a leader and her commitment to her players at every level, from our national teams to grassroots football,” the players wrote. “We see how much our colleagues at the US Football Association – from staff to leadership – appreciate Cindy’s leadership and the cultural advances she has championed.”

The players help get Cone re-elected, but the vote exposes the schism

Some of those players had votes in Saturday’s election, and likely waved them in Cone’s favour. The influential Athletes Council, a group of current and former players from all US national teams, received 33.3% of the weighted votes.

It’s unclear what portion of that 33.3% went to Cone, but it was probably the most significant portion of the 52.9% Cone earned. She was also praised by prominent figures in Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League, both of whom had significant influence on the Pro Council, which held 20% of the vote.

But many on the youth and adult councils – the heads of the state associations responsible for amateur football – supported Cordeiro. Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy wrote that their support underscored “how hopelessly divided the association is”. Cordeiro said Saturday that many “felt ignored and marginalized.” Many believe that US soccer currently allocates far too many resources to its senior national teams and not enough to grassroots organizations.

“There is almost a complete lack of support for youth and adult organizations in the United States,” lamented Janet Campbell, president of the North Texas Soccer Association, on Saturday. “And I hope you saw that in the vote that just came through.”

Cone addressed those cracks in her acceptance speech. “To everyone who supported me and to everyone who supported my opponent, I say the same thing: the moment of division is now over,” she said.

“We are an association. We are a team. I promise to be the leader for all of US soccer. I have never been so excited and hopeful for the future of our beautiful game.

“Now is the time for us all to work together. No more divisions. We don’t have time for all of this. Our moment is now, and I promise you that each of you have a friend and a partner in me as President of US Soccer.”

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