President's Letter to Membership - September 17, 2020
I hope everyone is doing well, mentally and physically, as we all continue to navigate these challenging times. While there’s no doubt the past few months have been extremely difficult, it has been inspiring to see our soccer community come together and once again show the amazing efforts of our players, coaches, referees, parents and administrators across the sport. As we try to return as safely as possible to the game we love, we should appreciate the incredible impact we can make when working in unison to take on the challenges ahead of us.
While we still have a long way to go to return to something resembling normal, it’s been great to see everyone working together to find our footing and push forward, from youth and adult leagues coming back, all the way to the professional leagues staging tournaments and now regular league play. It has been exciting to watch.
As we move from summer to fall, we wanted to provide some updates on activities on and off the field from the past few months as well as some insight into the near future, including some of the topics we addressed at our latest Board of Directors meeting on Sept. 12 that was conducted virtually.
2021 AGM Update
As many of you may have seen during the public board meeting this past weekend, our plan is to hold the 2021 Annual General Meeting using a hybrid approach, with most of it being conducted virtually. All of the council and committee meetings will be virtual, while the National Council Meeting will be the only non-virtual aspect and will take place in Chicago.
Improving on DEI
We want Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to be part of our DNA here at U.S. Soccer, and for it to inform every decision we make. We have partnered with a best in class consulting firm to help us understand where we are in terms of DEI and to make recommendations on how U.S. Soccer can become leaders in this area. Internally, our newly formed DEI Council, made up of nine full-time dedicated employees, will guide our commitment to having an inclusive environment while continuing to foster a culture of acceptance and respect within the organization and sport. While this is just the start and we still have a ways to go, we’re excited to incorporate best practices moving forward. Also, please know that the DEI Council launched the One Nation Hub to support, engage, educate, and promote diversity and inclusion by highlighting the work that is being done within the soccer community.
PLAY ON Continues
A huge thank you to all of the people across various departments at U.S. Soccer for developing our detailed PLAY ON campaign to assist the soccer community in getting back on the field. We really hope everyone reading this letter has had a chance to use our PLAY ON information to help them navigate their specific approach and plans. Also, a special thanks to U.S. Soccer’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. George Chiampas for leading the group and getting out the information to our members to make sure they are as safe as possible. You can get all the PLAY ON initiatives, helpful videos and recommendations here.
Congratulations Carlos Bocanegra!
A huge congratulations to former U.S. Men’s National Team captain Carlos Bocanegra! The National Soccer Hall of Fame last week announced that he was named to the 2020 induction class and will be enshrined next year. Carlos, who is one of our all-time greatest defenders and leaders for the MNT, will be inducted along with the Hall of Fame’s 2021 class at a combined ceremony next year at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
Jill Ellis Scholarship & Mentorship Program
Being a coach myself, I know personally how important it is to have more female coaches in the game. That’s why we were really excited to share with the Board that U.S Soccer will be launching the Jill Ellis Scholarship Fund and the SheChampions Mentorship program this fall. Both are great programs that will benefit, empower and advance female coaches through financial support, mentorship and community building. A huge thanks to U.S. Soccer coaching educator Karla Thompson, who is heading up the mentorship program.
With COVID-19 affecting our referee community as well, we are happy to report that U.S. Soccer's Referee Program has collaborated with our local State Referee Committees to extend more than 67,000 referee licenses through calendar year 2021. Our referees are incredibly important, and we look forward to continuing to find ways to grow this number moving forward.
WNT Lawsuit Update
As you are probably aware, in early May the majority of the USWNT players’ lawsuit regarding equal pay was dismissed on summary judgement by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Our goal is still to come to an agreement that benefits both parties.
2026 World Cup Planning Rolls On
It’s amazing to think the largest sporting event in the world will be played here in just six short years, and there’s been some more movement as preparations for the 2026 FIFA World Cup continue. The overall workshop as well as individual meetings between FIFA and all the Candidate Host City took place last month virtually, providing a great opportunity for FIFA to gather further information on the individual cities’ proposals. The next steps in the venue selection process will be visits to all cities by a FIFA delegation once it is safe to do so. We all know this will be an incredibly competitive process and that there will be difficult decisions in the end, but also that every host city is prepared to do a fantastic job hosting the world.
ON THE FIELD…
Preparing for the Next Senior Team Match
While our players and staff are hopeful to get back on the field and proudly represent the United States, we of course must adhere to our top priorities of doing so in a safe and responsible manner. We are still looking at possible camps and matches in October and November, but for now we don’t have anything confirmed. We do know we will be as prepared as possible in all aspects once we do.
Olympics Still a Go
While much still needs to be determined about the staging of the now 2021 Summer Olympics, we are planning full steam ahead for our participation, for both the women who qualified in January and our Under-23 Men’s National Team, who have yet to have the opportunity to play in qualifying. Our staffs have worked hard to plan for a 2021 schedule that will prepare our teams in the best possible way in this new reality. Hopefully we will get to execute those plans and do what Americans love to do in an Olympic year: root on Team USA.
2022 World Cup Qualifying Pushed Back
We’ve seen our road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup change several times, and now we are looking forward to completing the Concacaf Nations League next March while starting the World Cup qualifying process in September of 2021. Keep in mind, the 2022 World Cup is not until the end of that year, so we will have just enough dates to get in all the matches. With the exciting young talent we have, we are confident in our ability to earn a spot in Qatar.
Extended National Teams (Para, Beach and Futsal)
The 2020 Extended National Team calendar on the grass, court and sand has also basically moved completely into 2021. So much so that as it currently stands, the ENTs will compete in potentially six qualifying and world championship tournaments between March and October of 2021. The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup is scheduled for August 2021 in Russia and the FIFA Futsal World is in September in Lithuania (with both teams taking part in CONCACAF qualifying tournaments earlier in the year). The Para 7-a-side National Team has qualified for and will compete in the IFCPF Nations Cup in October in Italy for the top eight teams in the world. And the U.S. will also compete in the first IFCPF Women's World Cup, which is debuting in August in Spain.
Youth National Teams
Similar to the senior national teams, we hope to get our YNTs back together as soon as we can while we wait for more information on the staging of Concacaf qualifying and FIFA World Cups, many of which have been rescheduled or put on hold. Plans are in place to give our World Cup Teams every chance to excel at their respective tournaments by organizing as many camps and games as we can once it is safe and logistically possible to do so.
In closing, while there’s a lot of uncertainty in the moment, we remain focused, committed and prepared to handle anything that comes our way. These short-term challenges will not deter us from achieving our long-term goals as an organization, a Federation, and a soccer nation.
Cindy Parlow Cone
U.S. Soccer Federation