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Sunil Gulati Quote Sheet Regarding Pia Sundhage Announcement


U.S. Soccer Quote Sheet
U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati on Pia Sundhage
Sept. 1, 2012

On the status of Pia Sundhage’s current contract:
“She will coach the two games against Australia and that will be her sendoff.”

On how the discussion started:
“She’s got more than 100 caps for Sweden; she’s an icon there. We weren’t talking about going back to coach Sweden five years ago (when we first hired her), but it’s always been a dream for her. We met at the Men’s (Olympic) Final and we sat together and started talking. We wanted to do an evaluation like we’ve done at every tournament and I also wanted to know where her head was at. She said Sweden and we started talking about that a little bit.”

On reports that Sundhage has accepted the head coaching job for the Swedish National Team:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up coaching the Swedish National Team and that’s her dream. As I said to Pia when it first came up, we are going to be very, very supportive of her winning every silver medal out there.”

On what Sundhage did to reestablish the U.S. Women’s National Team:
“It was short-term chaos, it was a controversial period. When we first had Pia come aboard, she was on a one-year contract with an option. It was a very unique situation and because of that we had a search that was a little bit different because we needed someone who could know the program and so on and so forth. She wasn’t in that situation as someone else who might’ve known it better. She stabilized the situation to win gold and we come very close to winning three gold medals in three tournaments. She’s obviously been very successful. Having said that, this team has never not been in the medal round of a tournament. Every coach that has coached at least four years for us has won a gold medal. Every coach of our national team has won a medal. She’s been very successful, but when you put a terrific group of players with a terrific coach and a terrific program, that’s what you get.”

On starting the search for a new head coach:
“I’m sure there are a lot of names out there. We will set up a search committee like we did last time and we’ll announce that in the next couple of days. Then we’ll start the process pretty quickly. We have the luxury of games coming up that aren’t qualifying games. She’ll be with us for some of those. She’s got a great staff around her. There’s not a short-term time constraint.”

On what the next head coach must do to maintain the USA’s prominence:
“It’s all of the above. Pia is very much focused on this team, she wasn’t as much involved with our youth teams and wasn’t overseeing that part of the technical director role. That’s what April Heinrichs is doing. We want someone that can get the most out of this group and develop the next group and make sure the U.S. team is at medal ceremonies throughout and be on the top tier.”

On what Sundhage meant to U.S. Soccer:
“Just look at her track record; she’s lost six games in five years, which is incredible. We came within a whisker of three gold medals. She’s continued a terrific track record of success with the U.S. Women’s National Team program. She came in at a difficult time and in short order turned around a devastating loss in Beijing to a success in Beijing a year later. She’s got the team playing a little bit differently, but I think she’s added something stylistically and technically, and demands on the players.”

On the importance of establishing another professional league for women:
“What we’ve been talking about and looking at is a different economic model – a model that is sustainable. We’ve been talking with a number of people, stakeholders in the game, people that have had professional teams in the past, people that run professional leagues now at different levels, players, so I think if you see something come together it will be a very different economic model. Sustainability is far more important than getting it started.”

On whether or not the country needs a women’s professional league:
“We have won six gold medals in 21 years. None of those has happened in a year where there was a professional league. We’ve had a pro league six of the last 21 years. We’ve had a model that can succeed on the field without that on the senior National Team level. So, is it a necessary and sufficient condition for success on the field? The answer is no. Now there are a number of things a pro league can bring aside from the senior team. You’re looking for a situation where the best players are in a good environment. You’re looking for a situation where the next 50-100 players are getting good training and competing to be one of those best players. You’re looking at developing coaches and referees. You’re looking at developing markets for the game more broadly, popularizing the game more broadly. Those are all important pieces that you can’t do with just one team. There are a lot of things that a pro league can do for the sport that a single team can’t do. It’s really a combination of those two.”

On whether FIFA has pressured the U.S. to create a women’s professional league:
“I think FIFA would like to see the women’s game continue to grow and see us continue to take a leadership role in it. But they also understand that it has to be viable. There is no league in the world on the women’s side where all the players are earning a full-time salary through soccer. So it’s a tough economic model. There are very few examples of any sport in the world where there is a full-time women’s professional league. We have one here, but that was heavily subsidized by a very successful basketball league. We like doing tough things. If we can figure out the right model with the right people, then we will absolutely jump in and get at it.”

On if Sundhage’s announcement made Saturday a sad day:
“No. You’ve got a group of gold medalists with a highly successful coach. I knew this was a possibility five years ago. In the sense that we’re losing a very successful coach, but no coaches continue forever. It’s a happy day as far as I’m concerned. We’re happy for Pia and we’re happy we have the best women’s team in the world.”

On whether MLS will be involved in a new women’s professional league:
“I don’t think that’s in the short-term timeline. Whether some potential owner-operators in MLS chose to be part of a structure, that’s possible. I don’t think the league itself would particularly. I don’t think you’d see an NBA/WNBA type model.”

On discussions with the players on the possibility of a new women’s professional league:
“It may be that not everyone wants the same thing. I think if the situation is right, for all the obvious reasons, most of our players would prefer to play in the United States. Having said that, if some choose to go abroad, there is nothing wrong with that.”

On Rochester being important market for U.S. Soccer:
“It’s been a great market for a number of years. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like the overlay I saw in the newspaper today for Abby. You have an ownership group here that’s been very supportive of the women’s side. Having a superstar like Abby call this home helps in a game like this, but I think it would’ve been sold-out regardless. The atmosphere here today has been terrific.”

On the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team reaching the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup:
“We’re pleased that they beat North Korea to get to the semis and we’re hopeful they can get back  to the gold medal stand where they were a couple tournaments ago. We’ve got a great program. It’s not just about one group of players or one coach or an individual player or team. We’ve got a great program that develops players. We have to get better and so the fact that the U-17s and U-20 qualified in style, we set the bar for the women’s program very high.”

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