President's Letter - December 21, 2018
Dear Friends, Colleagues and Supporters of U.S. Soccer,
As we wrap up 2018 and look ahead to 2019, I want to share some important updates on the Federation’s activities since my last letter to you in September, including our quarterly in-person Board of Directors meeting on December 11 in Chicago.
Governance & Staffing
Congratulations to John Motta who was reelected as president of the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and who will continue to serve on the U.S. Soccer board. Congratulations as well to the 10 athletes who were elected to the Athlete Council and who will help ensure that players always have a strong voice in decision-making at the Federation. Nominations closed on Dec. 18 for U.S. Soccer Vice President, and the election will be held at our Annual General Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona in February.
We’re excited to welcome back Asher Mendelsohn, most recently with Columbus Crew SC, as he takes over as Chief Soccer Officer on January 1, replacing Ryan Mooney, who we thank for his decade of outstanding service to the Federation. Meanwhile, Pinky Raina, who brings more than 20 years of experience in finance, will serve as our new Chief Financial Officer, starting January 7. With these appointments, we’ve now named nine of our ten senior managers who report to our CEO, and we’re moving ahead with our search for the first-ever General Manager for our Women’s National Team.
Youth Task Force: Getting Down to Business
Building on the first meeting of our Youth Task Force Leadership Council in October, I’m very pleased that Cindy Parlow Cone has agreed to serve as co-chair of the task force, along with Dan Flynn. We are now forming working groups that will address the top concerns identified by youth organizations: membership growth, diversity and inclusion, coaching, refereeing, risk management/SafeSport and standards and certification. With a diverse membership of subject matter experts and thought leaders, each working group will develop specific recommendations to help recruit, retain and develop the next generation of youth players, coaches and referees.
Growing Our Ranks
I want to commend the 23 member organizations that applied for grants from our Innovate to Grow Fund to help boost youth and adult participation; applications are being reviewed and recipients will be announced early in the new year. It was a pleasure to attend the US Adult Soccer AGM in September to discuss ways that we can work together to attract new players for life.
Women’s National Team: On to France!
Congratulations to coach Ellis and our Women’s National Team on another incredible year, including their historic 500th win, an undefeated record of 18-0-2 and their sixth Concacaf championship. Tickets are going fast for the 10-game Countdown to the Cup, starting against France (Jan. 19) and Spain (Jan. 22), followed by games across the U.S. And with the final draw earlier this month, the team can look ahead to matches against Thailand, Chile and Sweden in Group F as they defend their championship title at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
Men’s National Team: Berhalter Takes the Reigns
Earlier this month, we were thrilled to announce Gregg Berhalter as the new head coach for our Men’s National Team. With 25 years of experience as a coach and player—and the first U.S. World Cup veteran to become head coach of the team—Gregg hit the ground running. After a 10-day road trip to meet with our USMNT players, he discussed the path ahead, including the roster for January Camp. 2019 kicks off with a friendly against Panama on January 27, and then, this summer, the team defends their regional title at the Concacaf Gold Cup.
National Youth Teams Highlights
It was great to visit our U-20 Men’s National Team in Florida, where they won their second straight Concacaf championship—congratulations to coach Tab Ramos and the team!—and also secured a berth for next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland. With our U-17 Women’s National Team not advancing out of a challenging group at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Uruguay, our technical leaders conducted a performance review with a continued focus on player development.
Success Across Disciplines
At U.S. Soccer, we honor every athlete who wears the crest. In October, our Men’s National Amputee Team competed in the Amputee World Cup in Mexico. Congratulations to our Paralympians for qualifying for next year’s IFCPF World Cup in Spain and the Parapan American Games in Peru. And best of luck to our Beach National Team as they prepare for qualifying early next year for the 2019 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Professional Leagues: Breaking Records
Heading into a new year, our professional leagues continue to grow. Atlanta United’s MLS Cup victory was viewed by the largest TV audience in two decades and attended by a record 73,019 fans. Following Louisville City FC’s USL Cup win, the 2019 USL season will begin with restructured leagues, including a new third division. Buoyed by NC Courage’s championship win in front of a sold-out crowd, the NWSL heads into a record seventh season. And with the Houston Dynamo savoring their first-ever win in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, qualifying matches are almost complete for the 2019 tournament.
Celebrating Our Best
It was an honor to help open the new National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco, Texas and welcome the Class of 2018: Brad Friedel, Cindy Parlow Cone, Tiffeny Milbrett, Don Garber and Dr. Bob Contiguglia. At the ceremony, we also recognized JP Dellacamera with the Colin Jose Media Award. And thank you to all our outstanding 2018 Players of the Year who inspire us all: Alex Morgan, Tierna Davidson, Zack Steffen, Alex Mendez and Gracie Fitzgerald.
As I reflect on the past year—including my first ten months as president—I remain humbled by the privilege of serving in this role. I’ve learned that nothing truly prepares you for a position like this, and I’m deeply grateful for the passion and dedication that all of you—including our dedicated team at Soccer House—devote to our shared mission: bringing soccer to more people in more places across our country and ensuring that all our teams achieve their highest level of performance.
I wish you, your teams and your families a safe and happy holiday season, and I look forward to seeing all of you at our AGM in February!