New U.S. Soccer leaders face a tough task
Cindy Parlow Cone didn't want to be president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Will Wilson, on the other hand, applied to be federation chief executive officer.
Both suddenly find themselves in charge of an organization facing "challenging times."
The biggest challenge is the gender equality lawsuit filed against the federation by the women's national team players, a situation made worse by an incendiary federation legal filing. The uproar over that filing caused president Carlos Cordeiro to resign March 13. Parlow Cone, the vice president and a former national team player herself, took over immediately.
"With so many things going on in the federation and the world right now, I'm literally working day and night to ensure we have a smooth transition from Carlos to me as president, and with Will as our CEO," Parlow Cone said on a media conference call Tuesday. "As you can imagine I didn't plan to find myself in this position."
Parlow Cone said she hopes to settle the lawsuit out of court as soon as possible. Then there is work to do to unite players, fans and the federation behind the goal of further developing women's soccer in this country.
"A lot of damage has been done, and I think we're going to have to rebuild that trust and rebuild that relationship," Parlow Cone said. "It is not going to happen overnight. It's going to take a lot of effort and time and energy from the U.S. Soccer side to rebuild that trust, not only with our U.S. women's national team players but with our fans and everyone engaged in the sport."
The women's lawsuit seeking equal pay isn't the only problem Cone and Wilson face.
While the women's team remains the best in the world, the men's team has struggled. The men, who have been without a collective bargaining agreement for more than a year, didn't qualify for the 2018 World Cup. A turnaround is going slowly under new coach Gregg Berhalter, brother of Jay Berhalter, who recently resigned from his job as the No. 2 official at the federation.
Parlow Cone and Wilson also face an atmosphere within the Chicago-based organization of low employee morale described in comments on the job search website Glassdoor.
"Yes, there are issues," said Wilson, who replaced longtime CEO Dan Flynn, who retired. "That's obvious. But for me it was the fact that we had to address those and find resolutions, attack the culture and really create a place that people want to be and want to work."
And of course there are issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, including the suspension of the MLS, USL and NWSL seasons as well as the postponed U.S. Open Cup.
"There's definitely things to be addressed. There's no question. And a lot of them very public," Wilson added. "For me I view it as a huge opportunity and I believe that U.S. Soccer has in and of itself a great opportunity with a lot of things on the horizon."