U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro
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U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro

US Adult Soccer Annual General Meeting
Buffalo, New York
Saturday, September 22, 2018

“Attracting New Players for Life”

Hello everyone!  Thank you, Duncan, for your introduction, as well as your service here at USASA and across our soccer community.  To John, Richard, your entire Board of Directors and to all of you from across the country—I saw some of you at the U.S. Youth Soccer AGM this summer—thank you, all, for welcoming me here today.

I want to begin by congratulating some of the recent champions that are represented by your associations.  The winners of the 2018 Steinbrecher Cup—and the first team to ever win the Cup two years in a row—the Michigan Bucks.  The champions of the 2018 National Amateur Cup—Bavarian SC, out of Milwaukee.  All the winners of your National Championship Series.  And with the incredible success of this year’s Open Cup—the oldest soccer cup in America—we’re already seeing qualifying matches for next year’s Cup.  Best of luck to all the teams—including the 94 amateur teams.

Most of all, I want to express my gratitude to all of you.  As I’ve said before, I believe that adult soccer embodies the true spirit of soccer in America.  In many ways, you are the guardians of the game. As an organization, you provide platforms for players to excel at every level—from pick-up games to leagues—showing that you really can make soccer “your game for life.”  You provide opportunities for coaches to excel and for referees to get real-time experience in what some call the most competitive games in our country.  As some of our most passionate fans, you’ve helped drive the phenomenal growth of soccer in America.   

Just as you’ve been vital to our past—as the oldest and longest-standing member of our Federation—you can also help shape our future.  So, on behalf of everyone across our U.S. Soccer family, thank you for the commitment that you bring to soccer every day—including your dedication to taking the sport to the next level in our country.

As you all know, bringing change to U.S. Soccer was also a major theme of the campaign for Federation president—and it was deeply humbling to be elected.  It’s now been seven months since I took office, so I want to give you an update on our work to deliver the change that’s needed.

We’re working to make U.S. Soccer more open and transparent.  I’m communicating with members regularly—updates by email and through social media; I hope you’re receiving them—so that you know what’s happening at the Federation and why.

We’re changing the way we run the Federation to improve effectiveness and oversight—new board committees so that the Board plays a greater role in Federation activities, and a restructured senior management to align with the Board and improve accountability.

We’re committed to being your partner and collaborating with you—which is why we expanded our outreach to members, creating our Stakeholders Department.  This includes Caitlin Carducci, who many of you know, and it’s being led by our Chief Stakeholders Officer, Brian Remedi—and I’m pleased that both Brian and Caitlin are here today.

With respect to our National Teams, we’re making sure that soccer operations are run by soccer experts.  On the men’s side, it’s a time of rebuilding—Earnie Stewart started as the first General Manager of our Men’s National Team last month and he’s leading the search for a new head coach.  And, our young players are showing great promise—tying France, in France, right before the World Cup, and beating Mexico last week.

On the women’s side, we’re moving ahead with hiring the first GM for our Women’s National Team.  And in less than two weeks in North Carolina, they kick off CONCACAF qualifications to defend their World Cup title—and we expect to see them in France next year.

Overall, we’re working to update the Federation’s long-term strategy so that we make the most of the critical years leading up to the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which we’re proud to say will be co-hosted right here in the United States, Mexico and Canada.  We recognize that we have to do more to support our members, including adults; impact our athletes and serve our fans—and we hope to share a more detailed plan in the coming months.

During the presidential campaign, we also heard concerns about various relationships, including the relationship between the Federation and members such as USASA and Adult State Associations.  Some raised questions about the fees you pay and called for them to be reduced.  Our Federation is a membership organization—and when members raise concerns, we take them seriously.  So we went back, opened the books and dug into the numbers—because it’s important that we know the facts.  And today I want to share with you what we found.

Take the past four years as an example.  From 2014 to 2017, Adult Soccer has paid U.S. Soccer each year membership fees of approximately $500,000 to $560,000.  These payments, however, have not been only one-way.  At the same time, the Federation, each year has invested back into Adult Soccer—mostly in cash with a little in-kind support as well—at least 1.5 times what US Soccer has received from Adult Soccer associations.  In fact, last year—2017—the Federation invested more than three times what it received from Adult Soccer. 

In other words, for every $1 that USASA and the Adult State Associations paid to U.S. Soccer, USASA and Adult State Associations received $3 in return.  And I’m happy to share all these number with you.  At the same time, Adult Soccer also benefits from its association with U.S. Soccer in the marketplace—for example, by advertising to potential members that by joining USASA they’ll also be registered as a member of U.S. Soccer.

But enough about dollars and cents.  I’m not here to talk about money because I don’t view ours as a “business” relationship.  I view our relationship as a family – a soccer family – a relationship based upon our shared passion for soccer.  That is why I volunteer and so many of you volunteer.  Our reward is growing and improving the game we love.  

And looking at the overall relationship between Adult Soccer and U.S. Soccer, I think any fair review of the facts shows that even as Adult Soccer pays in, the organization as a whole gets much more in return.  And so, as we go forward, my hope is that instead of a narrow focus on fees, we can work together—as partners, as members of one soccer family—to strengthen our overall relationship and achieve our shared mission: attracting even more players who can make soccer their “game for life.”

Now, it’s not the place of U.S. Soccer to impose solutions or tell members what to do—after all, no one knows adult soccer better than you.  One of the concerns that some of you have shared is about participation – now, here are numbers I would like to discuss.  Millions of young people play youth soccer in America, some go on to play in college or intramurals or unaffiliated leagues—but too few become registered players as adults.  As a result, for many years, the ranks of Adult Soccer have been largely flat—around 250,000 registered players.

Many of you have expressed a desire to grow—and U.S Soccer wants to help.  One opportunity is right in front of you.  Last year, U.S. Soccer created the Innovate to Grow Fund—offering up to $3 million in funds to members, including Adult Soccer, to innovate and grow participation. 

However, of the 54 adult or joint soccer associations, only one submitted an application focused on adult soccer.  The Washington State Adult Soccer Association applied for and received a grant to bring in more players with low-impact Walking Soccer.  And it’s working—bringing around 100 new players to the association.  As one player said, “If you quit playing and you remember how much fun you had when you were, it is a great opportunity to get back into the game.”

We recently announced our Innovate to Grow Fund for a second year—another $3 million available to help your programs attract new members.  That money is available—but you have to step up and apply with a new idea to help grow our game—and I strongly encourage you to seize this opportunity.

There are so many ways that Adult Soccer and the Federation could be working more closely together:

Exploring ways to reduce insurance costs;

Working with national and local parks and recreation groups to increase your access to fields;

Partnering to develop best practices in areas like governance and administration;

Driving growth—including among women, underserved and immigrant communities and millennials—with more varied tournaments, perhaps around national and professional games so that we harness the U.S. Soccer brand to help you attract more players; or

Collaborating—not only to recruit and retain more referees—but to raise awareness that it’s everyone’s responsibility to treat referees with respect.

There are so many ways that we could be collaborating together.  But the most effective and most sustainable ideas will come from you—again, the adults who know adult soccer best.  I’d suggest that your upcoming strategy retreat is a chance to start identifying the greatest opportunities for progress—Brian Remedi will be there, too.  Our youth groups are coming together for the first time ever to identify priorities and find new solutions—in close partnership with the Federation.  You, our Adult members, can do the same.

So I’m here today to say that if you are ready to seize this moment, if you’re ready to innovate and develop new ways to grow, you will have a ready and eager partner in me and in U.S. Soccer—that’s our promise to you.

Finally—and another reason we should be working together even more closely—there’s the fact that we’ll be co-hosting the World Cup in 2026.  In our bid, we worked tirelessly with our Mexican and Canadian friends.  We met with just about every federation from the Americas, in Europe and Asia, and many in Africa…all told, about 175 around the world.  In the end, we built a strong coalition of support—it was a powerful reminder of how soccer can bring people together across countries and cultures.  And we prevailed, bringing the World Cup back to North America for the first time in 32 years.

I’m sometimes asked, why is hosting in 2026 so important?  Well, co-hosting the World Cup gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform and turbo-charge soccer in our country at all levels, including adult soccer.  In fact, with your elections today, with your upcoming strategy offsite, with these critical years leading up to 2026—you have perhaps your best opportunity in decades to reinvent adult soccer and attract a new generation of players for life.

The excitement around 2026 will inspire a new generation of youth and adults and bring more players into our ranks, especially as we work to attract more players from underserved and immigrant communities.  Bringing the most important soccer event in the world to North America will also help generate new revenue that we can invest in the game—at all levels.  In short, we can more deeply weave soccer into the fabric of our country—all of which means new opportunities for adult soccer.  With all that in mind, I want to share with you a brief video that captures this spirit.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is an awesome production—one that gives you a sense of the energy that we have to harness.  Now, we need to find a way to turn that energy into a sense of urgency and advance our mission to make soccer the preeminent sport in America.

In closing, I believe that if we can work together as I’ve described—as true partners—we can imagine a time in the not-so-distance future when even more young people in their 20’s and 30’s see the benefits of being a registered player and transition to adult soccer.

Where even more men—and women—come by to join a pick-up game or play in competitive leagues.

Where even more give their time as coaches and referees.

Where even more become fans—cheering for our teams, including at the 2026 World Cup right here in America.

A future where even more parents and grandparents—remembering their own days on the pitch—pass their love of the beautiful game to their children and grandchildren, so that they, too, become players for life.

That’s a vision worth working toward—a vision we can achieve together.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here, thank you for everything you do for the game, and I look forward to working with you.