U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro resigned from the job Thursday night, after days of pounding by fans, media and players for Federation filings in the women’s national team’s equal pay lawsuit.
“After discussions with the Board of Directors, I have decided to step down, effective immediately," Cordeiro said in a statement on Twitter.
Cordeiro was president for just over two years, succeeding Sunil Gulati after he left in the wake of the U.S. men failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Cordeiro, a 64-year-old former Goldman Sachs banker, was U.S. Soccer’s vice president and a longtime board member before winning a bitterly-contested election over a crowded field.
Cordeiro was regularly booed and heckled by fans at U.S. women’s team games, most famously at last year’s Women’s World Cup victory parade in New York.
And when U.S. Soccer filed a defense Monday night citing physical differences between men and women as a reason to pay the women’s team less, the public revolt was the biggest yet.
“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,” the filing said (emphasis in the document). “Plaintiffs ask the court to conclude that the ability required of a WNT [women’s national team] player is equal to the ability of an MNT [men’s national team] player, as a relative matter, by ignoring the materially higher level of speed and strength required to perform the job of an MNT player.”
Some of U.S. Soccer’s biggest sponsors — Coca-Cola, Volkswagen, Budweiser and Deloitte — issued statements denouncing those words and demanding meetings with the governing body.
In his resignation announcement, Cordeiro said he “did not have the opportunity to fully review the filing in its entirety before it was submitted, and I take responsibility for that. Had I done so, I would have objected to language that did not reflect my personal admiration for our women’s players or our values as an organization.”
He called the language “unacceptable and inexcusable,” and concluded: “As U.S. Soccer moves ahead with its defense against the lawsuit by the team, I hope that our remarkable women’s players always treated with the dignity, respect and admiration that they truly deserve.”
Before Wedneday’s U.S.-Japan game in the SheBelieves Cup — a tournament sponsored by Visa — U.S. players protested by wearing their warmup gear inside out, hiding the U.S. Soccer badge but showing the four stars above it for the team’s World Cup titles.
During the game, Cordeiro issued an apology that was read on air by ESPN’s broadcast team. He also said U.S. Soccer was bringing in new lawyers, though from a firm the Federation has worked with a lot in the past. He also didn’t say whether the existing ones were being fired.
Fans didn’t buy any of Cordeiro’s defenses. Nor did powerful figures across American soccer.
U.S. star Megan Rapinoe, the reigning FIFA Player of the Year, said after Wednesday’s game that the players “had sort of felt those were the certain undercurrent feelings they have had for a long time, but to see that as the argument, a sort of blatant misogyny and sexism as the argument against us, is really disappointing.”
The Athletes’ Council voted for Cordeiro in the presidential election, and had a big role in crowning the winner.
“There was a lot of promises and hope for change," O’Reilly said. "The current released statements have shown my error in judgment.”
Athletes’ Council chair Chris Ahrens, a member of the U.S. men’s Paralympic team, said the group “requested a meeting with USSF leadership and members of the legal team to demand better.”
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, a member of U.S. Soccer’s Board of Directors, said in a statement that he told Cordeiro “in no uncertain terms how unacceptable and offensive I found the statements to be.”
U.S. Soccer Vice President Cindy Parlow Cone, another former national team player, said she was "hurt and saddened by the brief USSF filed. … I disavow the troubling statements and will continue to work to forge a better path forward.”
“Respectfully, this [sic] a terrible stance made by US soccer,” Beasley wrote on Twitter. “Our women are NOT inferior to men in any sense of the word. … They have the SAME — if not more — skill, ability, effort and dedication as us men.”
Current U.S. men’s coach Gregg Berhalter told ESPN that "the comments in the U.S. Soccer filings do not reflect my values and beliefs.”
Cone is now the president. It’s the second time she has succeeded Cordeiro in a U.S. Soccer position, as she became vice president when Cordeiro moved up. She first served an interim term, then won a full four-year term for the job last month.
“I want to thank Carlos for his many years of hard work and dedication on behalf of U.S. Soccer,” Parlow Cone said in a statement. “He is a good man with a good heart and his significant work to help bring the 2026 World Cup to the United States will have a positive impact for generations. The passion that has come to the surface in the past two days is what inspires me to look forward, to work hard towards mending relationships and moving the game forward for all.”
U.S. Soccer now must fill the vice president, CEO and chief commercial officer positions. Cordeiro had said in recent months that the CEO job was close to being hired, but it has yet to happen.
After Cordeiro announced his departure, Molly Levinson, the spokesperson for the suing women’s players, called out more than just him.
“While it is gratifying that there has been such a deafening outcry against USSF’s blatant misogyny, the sexist culture and policies overseen by Carlos Cordeiro have been approved for years by the board of directors of USSF,” she said. “This institution must change and support and pay women players equally.”