Two years after being forced to resign from the U.S. Soccer Federation’s presidency, Carlos Cordeiro wants the job back.

Cordeiro announced Wednesday that he is running to unseat Cindy Cone, a former U.S. player who was his vice president before succeeding him, in the election that will be held in March at U.S. Soccer’s annual general meeting.

The news drew a chorus of criticism from fans who remain irate over the fact that Cordeiro was in charge when the governing body used sexist language in a legal filing in the U.S. women’s soccer team’s equal pay lawsuit.

“The overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men’s national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes, such as speed and strength, required for the job,” that filing said, specifically referring to “the materially higher level of speed and strength required to perform the job of an MNT player.”

Cordeiro claimed at the time that he did not see the filing before it was put out, and took responsibility for his lack of attention to it when he resigned.

In a manifesto announcing his candidacy, Cordeiro wrote: “Given what happened two years ago, I feel that I have a personal responsibility to help resolve this issue.”

The former Goldman Sachs partner pledged to “commit to recruiting significant new resources for U.S. Soccer for an expanded budget for our women’s programs,” and to “direct the Federation to earmark a portion of these new funds for a one-time payment so that U.S. Soccer can help reduce the discrepancy between past FIFA Men’s and Women’s World Cup prize money.”

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That discrepancy is one of the biggest stumbling blocks left in the lawsuit. The U.S. women are seeking nearly $67 million, a sum that would bankrupt the federation. All sides know it, and Cone has said so plenty often herself. At the same time, she has been working quietly behind the scenes to find a smaller number that would get a deal done.

Disliked by certain players

But the women’s players’ dislike of Cordeiro runs deeper than that. The Washington Post reported in November that in 2018, U.S. star Christen Press filed a formal complaint with U.S. Soccer about abusive behavior by former Chicago Red Stars manager Rory Dames, for whom Press played her club soccer at the time.

As with many U.S. stars, Press’ salary was paid by the federation as a way of paying stars something closer to their market value when some NWSL team owners didn’t have the money to do so.

The Post reported that U.S. Soccer took no action on the complaint, and a Red Stars spokesperson told the Post that the team never got a report on the investigation or any recommendations from the governing body.

That may have been one of the undercurrents in a tweet from Megan Rapinoe on Wednesday that accused Cordeiro of having resigned from the presidency because “he embarrassed everything and everyone with caveman levels of misogyny...”

In addition to all that, the U.S. women’s players’ collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of March. It was to expire at the end of this year, but a memorandum signed last month extended the deal for a few months — and abolished U.S. Soccer’s subsidies of national team stars in the NWSL. Both sides wanted that gone to give players more freedom, and they agreed to have that provision start immediately.

Cone and current CEO Will Wilson have also been working on a new CBA for the U.S. men, who haven’t had a formal deal since the end of 2018.

We will see if any mutual disinterest in Cordeiro returning to power prompts the sides to secure deals before the election.

On other subjects

Some of Cordeiro’s most pointed remarks came on the subject of U.S. Soccer’s relations with FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, and the ongoing work to prepare to bring the 2026 men’s World Cup here.

“U.S. Soccer could be working more closely with FIFA to prepare for the FIFA World Cup 2026,” he wrote, insisting that he is “the only candidate with the global experience to ensure that 2026 is the transformational event it must be.”

He also accused the federation of having “forfeited its place on the world stage at a critical moment” by not having a representative on the FIFA Council, the global governing body’s top leadership group. The U.S. was represented for many years by Chuck Blazer, then Sunil Gulati — the latter of whom preceded Cordeiro as federation president.

But Cordeiro has not lacked for personal influence at FIFA. In September, president Gianni Infantino appointed him as a “senior advisor on global strategy and governance.”

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One source with a long history of involvement in American soccer matters reached out to the Inquirer to wonder — requesting anonymity to avoid potential retribution — if Cordeiro is angling to get a FIFA Council seat for himself.

Cordeiro also wrote that “by failing to bid to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup, U.S. Soccer missed a major opportunity to energize the women’s game here in America.” That phrase is factually inaccurate, another source with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Inquirer.

For one thing, FIFA has not yet opened the bidding for the 2027 tournament, so U.S. Soccer hasn’t “missed” it yet. For another, while U.S. Soccer at one point backed off a plan to bid for ‘27, Cone said in October that the door is open to a bid — and the aforementioned source said the door remains open to this day.

After The Inquirer asked his spokesperson about the error, Cordeiro updated his manifesto on Wednesday night to say: “By failing to make it clear whether it will bid to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup, U.S. Soccer risks missing a major opportunity to energize the women’s game here in America.”

Yet for all of this, the real fuel behind Cordeiro’s bid may still be yet to come. He knows that regional youth and amateur adult soccer associations are annoyed with the current administration, and knows they make up the bulk of U.S. Soccer’s membership.

Part of the annoyance is a perception of Cone focusing more on the national teams and less on their interests. But also at play is a federally mandated change in U.S. Soccer’s governance structure that reduced the youth and adult groups’ voting power.

As part of updates to a federal law that regulates national sports governing bodies, in October U.S. Soccer passed legislation increasing the Athletes’ Council’s power to 33.3% of the votes on rule-making and other matters. The Youth Council, Adult Council and Pro Council (representing the country’s pro leagues) each had their vote reduced from 25% to 20%.

The Youth and Adult Councils were reportedly upset, no matter how many reminders Cone gave that it was mandated by law. (And it wasn’t lost on some observers that Adult Council leader John Motta had lost to Cone in the 2020 vice presidential election.)

In order to formally be a candidate, Cordeiro needed three nominations from federation members — which include, as examples, state and region-level youth and adult amateur soccer associations across the country. It’s not yet known who nominated Cordeiro. If we find out, that might tell us something about the power dynamics at play.

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