"An Honor and A Privilege": Will Wilson On Being Named New U.S. Soccer CEO
ussoccer.com: Congratulations on being named the new CEO of U.S. Soccer. What drew you to the position and why did you want to work at U.S. Soccer?
Will Wilson: “I view the opportunity as an honor and a privilege. For me, U.S. Soccer has been one of those brands, one of those institutions, that's been very admired from my perspective. I go through a process every few years of writing down things I'd like to do or places I'd like to work, and U.S. Soccer honestly has been on my list for over 10 years. I never knew that it'd be this opportunity or at this time, but for me, I'm just really excited about it. I think there's tons of opportunity. I'm really enthused and excited about soccer in this country and there's nowhere but to go but up.”
ussoccer.com: What do you think makes you a good fit for the position of CEO of U.S. Soccer?
WW: “I've been in this business for almost 30 years. My experience has been both domestic and international. I've been running businesses or divisions within a business at the league, the team, and the agency level and I think I've learned a lot along the way. Some of those things are just diversity of thought, quite frankly, and sort of the culture exposure I've had, the language exposure I've had, I think all of these things have led to me being able to be kind of a key problem solver. I think that's a skill that I can bring to U.S. Soccer going forward. I also believe that I have the business acumen to handle the tasks that are in front of us. Certainly, from a commercial perspective and from a management perspective, I'm very comfortable taking those challenges head on and moving forward. Also, in my prior role in the agent business, I've been exposed to labor and contract negotiations and CBAs at the NFL level. I think some of that exposure, understanding athletes, knowing how to meet them where they're at and the things that are important to them are also skills that'll come into play in this role.”
ussoccer.com: The Women's National Team situation is obviously front and center. What are your thoughts on the situation? What do you think the next steps need to be? What's your vision there?
WW: “Our Women's National Team is the best women's team in the world and has been for some time. We have nothing but the utmost respect for them, I have nothing but the utmost respect for them. The language that came out in the filing the other week is certainly not the perspective that I have experienced while interviewing with U.S. Soccer, that's not how anyone feels at the Federation and it's something that we certainly don't condone in any way, shape or form. Obviously, we have work to do in order to find a solution moving forward. Our president Cindy Parlow Cone and I are going to be laser-focused on that, I think it's of the utmost importance. We have to rebuild that relationship and find a way forward.”
ussoccer.com: How do you view the future of U.S. Soccer? What are the opportunities for U.S. Soccer to grow?
WW: “The sport has come a long way in the last 20-25 years. With the 2026 World Cup in our geography, it's a huge opportunity to catapult the sport even further. This is a country with lots of sports to play, a huge sporting population, lots of talent and I really like our chances and our odds on the both the women's and the men's side of developing the game further and using that World Cup and what comes beyond as a as a real catapult and a real catalyst to get us there.”
ussoccer.com: How do you see the importance of the women's game in this country? NWSL is now eight years in after two leagues folded. How important is it to U.S. Soccer that the league continues to grow and thrive?
WW “I think it's critically important to have a professional league in our geography where women can play and excel on a regular basis with the schedule of games. I think it's critical to their development and critical to development of the National Team. I also think it's aspirational for the young women in our country. I have a daughter who plays at a high level, I'd love to see her play professionally one day if she wanted to have that opportunity and to have that aspiration. I think it's a very important part of our landscape.”
ussoccer.com: What would you like to say to U.S. Soccer fans?
WW: “I really appreciate their passion for the game. Our fans, to me, are some of the most passionate, best in the land, even in the world and they've been with us through thick and thin. I know it's been challenging times for U.S. Soccer in a lot of ways, but I just want to let the fans know that I'm going to work as hard as I can to earn their trust and to continue to push this game forward.”
ussoccer.com: When you talk about U.S. Soccer, a lot of people think of the senior Men's and Women's National Teams, they're the most high-profile parts of the Federation, but U.S. Soccer is a non-profit organization, a member-based organization. Can you talk about the importance of the membership for U.S. Soccer?
WW: “Our membership is hugely important to our success. There are many different levels of soccer in this country, obviously from youth to pro with adult, with disabled soccer, there's a whole complex piece of it and everyone's support at every level is critical to us growing the game and being able to do the things that we want to do. Without them, we don't have U.S. Soccer, quite frankly. To me, they're critically important.
“Honestly, it's going to be very important to have almost a listening tour, if you will, of all of our members and folks who are involved in the soccer ecosystem in this country. That's not going to happen overnight. Clearly, there's a lot of folks involved, but I really want to hear from people directly what the challenges are in their minds, what the successes are in their minds and throughout the various constituents in our membership, try to find those areas of commonality to help us move forward.”