There have been times over the years - increasingly frequent, but never rare - when US Soccer would make a statement about this thing or that thing, and we’d all kind of look at each other, incredulous: Are these people for real? They’d issue a statement about kneeling for the anthem, for instance, folding back hard on a general groundswell of support for the players expressing themselves, and we’d all kind of take a beat: Holy shit, are they just assholes?
Thanks to today’s livestream of the US Soccer’s Annual General Meeting, we can answer categorically, “Yes. Yes, they are.”
At least we got to see the masks slip - Sunil’s alum-bitter sense of humor, the vapidity and privilege informing Kathy Carter’s candidacy, Carlos Cordeiro’s more-traditional deals-deals-deals orientation all contributed to the general air of frustration. The fix was in and everyone knew it, handled the way fixes get handled everywhere all over the globe - put ‘incorruptible’ people into positions where they can make highly-leveraged decisions, then bribe, cajole and threaten those people into compliance.
The existence of this reality - and the removal of the most crucial mask of all, that of US Soccer as an inclusive federation devoted to the growth of the game - came down like a hammer when the first vote totals flashed on the screen:
The Athlete’s Council decision to vote as a block for insider candidates - and eventual winner Cordeiro - clearly dealt a death-knell to insurgent candidacies. In short, the establishment got to ‘em.
When one runs a national program, the depth of the promises one can make individual voters is notable, and the kind of power one can offer those voters over their peers is difficult to turn down. It’s omnidirectional corruption, a failure of governance and oversight at every level, resisted only by the desire of basically everyone else for the goddamned system to work for anyone else. So, in that way, it’s a fractal copy of every other system failure in end-stage capitalism, Everything is The Wire: Soccer Edition. The Beautiful Game as a neofeudal exploitation structure, with power doled out to dukes and viscounts across the landscape, their overriding responsibility to the Crown being defense of the Crown in times of crisis.
Like, y’know, when Kyle Martino is cogently calling bullshit on the entire enterprise. Or when Hope Solo stands up to name names, pointing to the role of US Soccer personnel in supporting Carter and Cordeiro’s candidacies. Or when Paul Caliguri, paragon of normcore calm, declares the system is broken: “Look at the inputs! Players are the inputs!”
So we will continue for the foreseeable future down the course MLS has set us upon, but retain the possibility that the interests of US Soccer and MLS will be seen to diverge in the not-too-distant future. At least some of the battle-lines are clearer than they previously had been: US Soccer is in some ways a captured regulatory agency, MLS wishes to be its corporate owner and controller, and soccer is the monopoly they intend to build their power-base upon. Leagues in the USA that don’t ally with MLS will be treated the way Standard Oil treated wildcatters. The defeat of Carter kept that reality at bay for the time being - at least Cordeiro’s power base isn’t a unity diagram with MLS’s. We return to status quo ante.