End of Year Letter
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
“Focused on the Future”
As we close out one year and prepare for another, I want to share some highlights from recent months—on the field and off—including some of the important topics we addressed at our final Board of Directors meeting of the year on December 6 in Chicago.
AT SOCCER HOUSE…
CEO Transition: Moving Forward
On September 16th, I joined our executive team and staff at Soccer House to thank Dan Flynn as he completed nearly 20 years as our CEO. Thank you, also, to Brian Remedi, who is serving as Chief Administrative Officer, and to our entire executive team for making sure that the Federation continues to run smoothly during this time of transition. Our search committee is moving forward, and we have been conducting interviews with candidates for our new CEO. We have an impressive and diverse pool of talent—men and women, American and international, all highly qualified—and we’re committed to finding the absolute best person who can help lead our Federation into the future.
Doing Better by Our Employees
As part of our ongoing effort to make Soccer House the best possible place to work, we partnered over the summer with the Leadership Research Institute, which conducted a comprehensive survey of our employees who raised many concerns, notably about the working environment. I also held a town hall with employees at Soccer House in September, as well as smaller group discussions with departments, where I heard these concerns directly. We know we need to do better, and we’re moving ahead with a series of reforms. As discussed at our Board meeting—where, for the first time, we welcomed Soccer House staff—we’re working to improve communication, adopt more flexible work policies and potentially move out of Soccer House and into a more modern workspace to accommodate our growing staff—reforms that our next CEO will help sustain and build upon.
5-Year Growth Plan: Investing in You
We’re now about halfway through our 5-year plan to invest our $160 million surplus in growing the game at all levels, including player, coaching and referee development as well as performance at the highest levels for all our national teams. As you’ll recall, at our AGM in Scottdale we approved a record $136 million budget for this year. Unfortunately, the annual deficits that we had planned for are now somewhat higher because of unexpected legal expenses from defending against various lawsuits, and our surplus is projected to fall below $50 million by 2023. In the days ahead, you’ll receive a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, and, as you’ll see, we’ve made every effort to sustain our long-term development programs.
Innovate to Grow Fund: A Surge in Applications
In the third year of our Innovate to Grow Fund, we’re very pleased that more member organizations—38 members this year, compared to 23 last year—have applied for grants to boost youth and adult participation. This year, we’ve budgeted $3 million for grants. Applications are being reviewed and will be announced early in the new year.
Youth Task Force: More Access to Coaching Education
Our Youth Task Force announced its first wave of initiatives to increase access to coaching education and is also considering a new campaign to ensure that referees are treated with respect. Throughout the task force, working groups are also looking at creative ways to increase diversity so that youth soccer does a better job of recruiting and retaining players from all communities.
Adult Soccer: First-Ever US-Europe Champions Cup
In partnership with USASA and UEFA, we’re looking forward to the first-ever match between our U.S. and European amateur champions. USASA Amateur Cup champions Newton Pride FC will face off against UEFA Regions Cup champions Dolny Slask of Poland in May in Connecticut.
ON THE FIELD…
Women’s National Team: The Accolades Keep Coming
As our history-making Women’s World Cup champions wrapped up their Victory Tour, we saluted Jill Ellis and welcomed Kate Markgraf as the team’s first-ever GM and new head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who’s off to a great start as the team heads into Olympic qualifying. Meanwhile, the accolades keep coming, with Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Alex Morgan and Kelley O'Hara being named to FIFA’s Best XI, Megan Rapinoe being awarded FIFA’s Best Women’s Player for 2019 and the prestigious Ballon d’Or and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year, and the entire team being named TIME’s Athlete of the Year!
Men’s National Team: Looking Ahead to 2020
After making it to the Gold Cup final over the summer, our MNT won their group in the Concacaf Nations League to advance to the final round, scheduled for June. Up next for Gregg Berhalter and the team, the youngest group we’ve ever played in official competition: continuing to improve as they head into the Nations League final and a strong start to Qualifying this year for the 2022 World Cup.
Beach National Teams: Men and Women
For the first time in six years, our Men’s Beach National Team reached their World Cup, in Paraguay. Although they did not advance out of group play, we salute all 12 players, who inspired us with their stories. We’re also very proud that our first-ever Women’s Beach National Team successfully qualified for the World Beach Games in Qatar, finishing 5th against the best in the world in only their second-ever competition.
Para-7-a-Side National Team: Historic Wins
Congratulations to Coach Stuart Sharp and our Para-7-a-Side National Team who, at their World Cup in Spain this summer, won their group for the first time ever and then went on to win bronze at Parapan American Games in Peru! As part of our Centralized Training program, the team now has a more professional environment, including living and training together full-time in Atlanta and more training days.
Deaf National Teams: World Cup-Bound
Congratulations to the U.S. Deaf Men’s National Team on their first-ever gold medal in the Deaf Pan American Football Championships! With their win, both the men and the U.S. Deaf Women’s National Team have qualified for their World Cups in South Korea in 2020.
Futsal National Team: Back on the Court
We’re excited to welcome Dusan Jakica as the new head coach of our U.S. Futsal National Team, which has several camps planned as they prepare for the Concacaf Futsal Championship this spring and aim to qualify for the Futsal World Cup in the fall.
Across the Leagues: A Season of Champions
In front of a record crowd, Atlanta United FC claimed their first U.S. Open Cup title. We celebrate the continued growth of our professional leagues, including the MLS expansion to Austin, St. Louis, Sacramento and Charlotte, as well as record-breaking crowds at NWSL matches following our WNT’s World Cup win. Congratulations to the Seattle Sounders on winning their second MLS Cup; the Real Monarchs SLC on their USL Championship; and the North Carolina Courage on their second straight NWSL Championship.
Honoring Our Best
Finally, we paid tribute to greats of the game, including MNT legends Tim Howard and DaMarcus Beasley, and all our incredible 2019 players of the year: Julie Ertz, Christian Pulisic, Brianna Pinto, Sergiño Dest and Nick Mayhugh. We welcomed this year’s inductees into the National Soccer Hall of Fame: all-time leading goal scorer in women’s soccer Abby Wambach and Sunil Gulati, who led our Federation through more than a decade of growth. At the ceremony, we also recognized Tony Quinn with the Colin Jose Media Award. And we look forward to presenting Esfandiar "Esse" Baharmast with the 2020 Werner Fricker Builder Award!
In closing, I want to once again thank all of you—members, staff, administrators, volunteers—for everything you do, every day to support our players, coaches and referees at every level all across our country. We are, after all, a Federation, and we only succeed together. Thanks to your love of the game—and your commitment and programming—we’re bringing soccer to more people in more places than ever before. As I look to the year ahead, I’m incredibly grateful for your partnership, and I’m as optimistic as ever about the future of soccer in America.
I wish you, your teams and your families a safe and joyous holiday season, and I look forward to seeing you at our AGM in February!