U.S. Soccer In Focus #4 | From Volunteer to President, Gulati Helped Build the Beautiful Game

“There were no balls so we had to run to a Kmart and buy some,” Sunil Gulati remembered of the first U.S. Men’s National Team camp he was asked to run. It was 1985 and a bleak time for the game in America. The old North American Soccer League (NASL) had recently collapsed, the USMNT was on a four-decade run of failing to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, there was only fledgling organized women’s soccer at the national level and the U.S. Soccer Federation was shaking the couch cushions for spare change to keep the lights on. When the National Team, comprised of college players and picked haphazardly, finally got out on the field for practice at the then brand-new Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs, “the sprinklers came on,” said Gulati. “It was about as poorly planned as it gets.”

This was 20 years before Gulati would become U.S. Soccer’s longest-serving president and oversee developments in the U.S. game that would have seemed like fantasy fiction in those barren days of the middle 1980s. He was only an eager volunteer then, but a problem-solver confident in his abilities and intelligence.

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