DR. S. ROBERT CONTIGUGLIA - U.S. Soccer President
On plans for the next four years and U.S. Soccer’s progress over the past four years:
“When we came in, our priority was to build a business that was member service-oriented, and that had things like internal controls, strategic planning. There had never been a strategic plan written for the Federation in all of its existence, so we wrote the first strategic business plan for the organization. We’ve been following that plan rather diligently, we’ve put it under tight financial controls, and basically I think we’ve professionalized the business of the organization. We also focused on making the business successful, and generating revenue. You might have heard this morning in our report that we’re sitting on a $5 million surplus at this time.
“On the player and competition side, our goal was to win every competition possible. Our results on the field have been absolutely incredible at all age groups with so many firsts. Of course, with the Women’s National Team winning the World Championship, and then throughout the whole cycle concluding with our recent performance in Korea.
"The other area that we focused on was to change the culture of the organization and to introduce the values of service and transparency. We have a slogan: 'Lead, but don’t control.' We use our members to implement the programs of the Federation. And those are things which we’ve done over the past four years, and frankly, I feel we’ve surpassed my expectations going in four years ago, because back then we entered into a period that had been marked by a distrust of the Federation and pretentiousness. We’ve been able to rebuild levels of trust in the organization, and gain more respect for Soccer House and for the staff where the members really feel that we’re working together, which is what we’ve been trying to do, so we’re pleased with those accomplishments.
"Moving forward, we have to do the same thing. We start a whole new cycle over again, where our goal is to enter and win every single event that we can. We need to continue to develop better players, and one of the things that we will be doing is sitting down with Bruce Arena when he’s back on board, and with our other technical staff to look at how to best spend our resources in the areas of player development. We wrote a document called 2010 years ago, and we’ve surpassed most of the goals in that area other than winning every championship. We’re well past that, and we look forward to see what else we can do so that we can eventually win a (men’s) world championship. Bruce Arena spoke to our Board (of Directors) yesterday and to our membership today and made it clear that although we’re up there with the best teams in the world, we’re not best team in world yet, and that will take a continued huge effort on the part of everyone to play at that level and to win a World Cup. Qualifying for the next World Cup is not automatic, it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of preparation.
"We have to also grow our coaches and referees. They’re critical parts of our program. We need to focus on entry level youth development. One of the things I’d like to see is that there are so many different constituencies all throughout the game, I’d like them all to become centers of excellence to develop entry level youth players. They all have talented coaches now, and they should be responsible for entering the entry level referee and player into the game at a higher level. We need to make the average player better. Once the players become more talented and become familiar with our scouting system, we can bring them into the path towards the national team. In particular, (I’m speaking of) the Olympic Development Program, and hopefully one day down the line we’ll see a youth reserve league program that the pros are talking about. I think that model, the European model, with pro teams developing the highest level talent and really putting the resources into it, is a goal that we have for the future.”
On the USSF’s relationship and support of CONCACAF and FIFA:
“We lead by example at U.S. Soccer, and most people say we are a very moral, ethical organization. We did support Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer for Jack’s election and we supported (Sepp) Blatter for the contributions he made to the game. We have a very good working relationship with them. Chuck was here today at our convention, as a matter of fact, for the election. We have a strong relationship with CONCACAF, and it’s always been very professional.”
On prospects of the U.S. Men’s National Team playing Brazil and what calibur of team to expect in the fall:
“So far, there is only a tentative game set for November 17, 2002 against an opponent to be named later at a yet to be determined venue. We would love to play Brazil at some point in future, but most of our scheduling has a number of factors that determines who and when we play and the first one is television. We have a contract with ESPN and ABC, and because of the nature of soccer, we don’t get the top time slots available to us, so they are dictated to us instead via available time slots. Second, is the FIFA international calendar in what dates are available for the respective players, and finally stadium availability.”
On the significance of his re-election for the state of youth soccer:
“Well, my roots are in youth soccer. Youth is the foundation of our program of soccer in the U.S., with the pro league on top. I was a State Youth President, Coach in the ODP (Olympic Development Program) and USYSA President, so I have been involved and believe very strongly in soccer at that youth level. In my opinion, there are players out there now who are better than DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan were when they were 11 and 12 years old. So I think we are going into the right direction. I have always been incredibly supportive. The kids show more and more improvement each year, but we can still do better with more qualified coaches, and a concentration on the need to retain the teen population, since 75% of these kids drop out of soccer by the time they’re 13 years old.”
On whether running unopposed in the election is a positive or negative for the sport:
“I would like to think it’s the former, that we’ve done such a good job that people are happy with what’s going on. This was the first uncontested election in my 30 years at U.S. Soccer, and I do know there are talented people in leadership roles who could have run and are presidential material but felt things were going in right direction and would like to wait awhile.”
On what has to happen to complete deal with Bruce Arena:
“We have to agree to terms.”
On any updates or decision on U.S. Soccer’s bid to host the 2003 FIFA Confederation Cup:
“I have no contact with CONCACAF or FIFA regarding the Confederations Cup in 2003. We have submitted a letter of intent (to host the event) and then it is up to FIFA to meet and decide the venue.”
On whether U.S. Soccer is working with the NCAA to increase the number of games kids can play in college:
“Not at this time. Most of the contact with have with them has been cursory and by relying on the soccer coaches association to be the major contact to deal with soccer issues within the NCAA.”