Sunil Gulati is letting go of the reins of United States soccer.
The U.S. Soccer Federation president told ESPN’s Sam Borden on Monday he won’t pursue re-election to the post he has held for 12 years. The U.S. men’s soccer team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup weighed heavily on his thinking.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about it and talking about it with people in many different positions — many of whom told me I should run,” Gulati said. “But in the end, I think the best thing for me personally, and for the federation, is to see someone new in the job.
“But the loss to Trinidad (on Oct. 10 that eliminated the U.S. from World Cup contention) was painful, regrettable and led to a lot of strong emotions. And to be honest, I think at this point, that’s overshadowed a lot of other things that are important. So, fair or not, I accept that and think it’s time for a new person.”
As president, Gulati has helped lift U.S. Soccer’s profile globally and grow its cash reserves to around $100 million. The U.S. men’s soccer team reached the round of 16 at two World Cups and failed to qualify for another, while the U.S. women’s team won one FIFA Women’s World Cup and two Olympic Gold medals during Gulati’s tenure.
Gulati also was instrumental in the joint USA-Mexico-Canada bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and his influence as a FIFA Council member ultimately might prove pivotal in bringing the World Cup back to North America.
The U.S. soccer presidential race now is thought to be wide open. Candidates include attorney Steve Gans, ex-players Kyle Martino, Eric Wynalda, Paul Caligiuri and Mike Winograd and soccer administrators Paul Lapointe, Carlos Cordeiro and Kathy Carter.
Many believed Gulati would win re-election if he ran for U.S. soccer president, but he has taken the route ex-U.S. president Lyndon Johnson trod in 1968.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images