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USSF election set for today

Saturday 10th February 2018

Tottenham v Arsenal at Wembley kicks off a busy Premier League Saturday. Bayern welcomes Schalke and Madrid Sociedad in a Real clash just after tea. Between those contests one of national import for football in the United States will begin. The USSF will conduct the presidential election that will decide Sunil Gulati's successor. After 12 years in office, Gulati is stepping down

It may be a long, process. There are eight candidates running. The federation intends to complete the run-off process before Tigres takes on America in Liga MX in the evening. I'm fairly certain they all know America is a Mexican club, but in the current political climate you never know. Donald Trump is president. Oprah Winfrey is being touted as his opponent when (not if) he stands for reelection in 2020. Trump is treating the Presidency like he did his New York real estate empire, evicting minorities between rounds of golf.  In addition to producing talk shows, running a book club, and generally trying to inspire the entire world, Oprah is now selling mashed potatoes and macaroni & cheese. It should be a close race.

Certainly, the USSF race is being hotly contested. It even bears some resemblance to the last US Presidential election, and some distinct differences. The two establishment candidates are overwhelming favourites and one is a woman. Like Hillary Clinton, Cathy Carter has experience in (football) governance. On the other hand, the USSF insider in this instance is the man. Carlos Cordeiro, who was outgoing president Sunil Gualti's second, is also Latino, and therefore not making any noise about putting up walls.

There is also a government shutdown of sorts. Bruce Arena resigned as manager when the USMNT failed to qualify for the World Cup. No replacement will be named, no search will begin, until after the election. Dave Sarachan, who had been Arena's assistant, has been serving as caretaker boss, selecting mostly youth players to the squad for the two friendlies since Arena stepped down.

Meanwhile, the half-dozen fringe candidates have taken the lessons of Bernie Sanders and Jill Klein to heart. The so-called "Gang of Six" have grown concerned that a) they are being frozen out, and b) splitting the alternative vote between them to the detriment of all. They met on Thursday to unite and plot a strategy that ensures one from among them wins. 

In the egg-on-my-face department, it turns out Hope Solo is not the candidate who failed to meet the USSF's nomination process. Much like the battle for the White House, dignity and character weren't important issues. It was Paul Lapointe who failed to submit the correct paperwork. Solo, to her credit, is taking her candidacy seriously. As part of the Gang of Six, she was present on Thursday evening. Paul Caligiuri was not. So, technically it's a Gang of Five. But hey, America.

The sentiment outside the federation is that the governing body is out of touch, focused on developing marketing opportunities rather than on-pitch talent. Although a former player, Carter is the MLS marketing arm, SUM's, president. Cordeiro has been a USSF executive since 2007. The other six have each presented themselves as reform candidates.

Steve Gans is a force behind the pre-season International Champions Cup friendlies. On its face, he appears to be a Trumpish candidate, in that he is largely interested in reform that makes it easier to do business. Michael Winograd is a former player and current corporate attorney. While a specialist in the business end himself, he also serves as a director for a youth program in the New York area. Caligiuri has been heavily involved in youth player development since his retirement as a player. Martino and Wynalda are in broadcasting. Solo has mostly been in handcuffs and tabloids.

The war council took place in Kyle Martino's hotel suite. In addition to Caligiuri's absence, Wynalda is said to have left early in frustration. The group's major concern must be lining up behind one from their ranks during the run-offs, so that their support is not gradually eroded, their causes marginalised. The group agreed to meet again on Friday. With Saturday's voting rounds set to be ten minutes apart, the Group of Four, Five, or Six will need a plan in place to see the USSF does not proceed with business as usual after the election. They'll also need to maintain their fragile coalition if one among them does emerge the winner.

Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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