In a speech before the voting, Cordeiro made the case that he has both the experience necessary to run the organization and the independence to deliver the change clearly desired by U.S. Soccer members.
“Today the status quo is unacceptable,” he said. “U.S. Soccer needs to change. Transformational change. The vote comes down to one simple question: Who can actually deliver that change?”
No candidate received the required 50 percent plus one necessary to win on the first two ballots. Cordeiro received 36 percent of the vote, and then 42 percent, on those ballots, with Kathy Carter close behind and Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda each receiving about 10 percent of the vote. No other candidate received greater than 4 percent. Paul Caligiuri withdrew after the first round, and Michael Winograd and Steven Gans did the same after the second.
That cleared the road for Cordeiro, who easily won the third ballot with 69 percent of the vote. Clearly emotional over his victory, he thanked the other candidates “for a spirited campaign” and made a pitch for postelection unity.
The vote took place at U.S. Soccer’s annual general meeting, which is normally a staid affair with little to no interest outside the constituencies — state associations, youth and adult soccer programs and former players — that make up the electorate. During most election years, there isn’t much reason for outsiders to attend; Gulati, for instance, ran unopposed in each of his three elections.
But the World Cup elimination, the large field of candidates and the angry tone of the race drew quite a bit of outside interest this year. More than two dozen news media members were credentialed for this year’s meeting, including a number of television networks that broadcast live.
Voting was conducted in a conference room at the Renaissance Orlando SeaWorld. Each candidate was given five minutes to make a pitch to voters in an order determined by the drawing of lots.
There were 573 eligible voters. The professional, youth and adult councils each made up 25.7 percent of the vote; the athletes council made up 20 percent; and a smattering of individuals, including life members, the board of directors and even fan voters, made up the remaining 3 percent.
Each voter was given an electronic keypad to make his or her selection. In the first round — which had to be conducted a second time because of technical problems — Cordeiro’s 36 percent of the vote just edged Carter, who had 35. Wynalda came in third with 14 percent, followed by Martino, with 9.
After Cordeiro’s vote share grew in the second round and Carter’s shrank, it seemed clear that Cordeiro would become the organization’s next president. Representatives of Major League Soccer, which had supported Carter, switched their votes to Cordeiro for the third ballot.
But the election was ultimately decided by the athletes’ council. After narrowing its list of preferred candidates to Cordeiro, Carter and Martino, the group spent seven hours in discussions on Saturday before choosing to vote as a bloc for Cordeiro.
“With all the conversations going on about U.S. Soccer and all the different ideas, vitriol and the campaigns that have been run, I think it was more important than ever that we showed as an athletes’ group that we were united, and I think that makes a big statement,” said Stuart Holden, a former national team player and athletes council member.
Cordeiro becomes president immediately, and he will have little time to settle into the role. The combined United States-Canada-Mexico bid to host the 2026 World Cup is due in a month, a men’s national team coach needs to be hired, technical directors will probably be hired for the national teams, and the federation is a defendant in a number of lawsuits.
Cordeiro’s term as vice president ran through 2020. It isn’t yet known whether a special election to replace him will be held soon, or during next year’s annual meeting.