Orlando: United States Soccer Federation vice-president Carlos Cordeiro was elected chief of the governing body on Saturday, replacing outgoing president Sunil Gulati who stepped down after the country's 2018 World Cup flop.
Cordeiro, a Harvard-educated former investment banker, came through a crowded field of eight contenders to win on a third ballot at the USSF's annual meeting at the Seaworld resort in Orlando.
Cordeiro romped home in the third round of voting with 68.6 percent of the ballot, crushing sports marketing executive Kathy Carter, who was second with 10.6 percent.
The 61-year-old Cordeiro, along with Carter, was widely seen as an establishment candidate by other contenders in the field, who had demanded sweeping changes to the USSF following the country's shock failure to reach this summer's World Cup in Russia.
"Thank you to those of you who have supported me today," said Cordeiro, who will begin a four-year term.
"This is incredibly humbling. To those of you who didn't vote for me, I'm going to work to earn your support and trust over the next four years.
"I promise I will work for all of you to bring us together as one soccer community."
Cordeiro's election drew a line under the first contested election for the USSF presidency since 1998. Other candidates included former US internationals Paul Caligiuri, Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda, as well as women's international goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Boston attorney Steve Gans and Michael Winograd completed the field.
Martino, Wynalda and Solo had mounted slick campaigns vowing to provide a fresh outlook to US soccer after the World Cup flop, which they blamed on a systemic failure to uncover and nurture young talent.
However none managed to mount a serious challenge to Cordeiro when voting began, with Martino posting 10.6 percent in the final ballot, Wynalda 8.9 percent and Solo 1.4 percent.
Cordeiro, an Indian-born Colombian citizen who lives in Miami, won 36 percent in the first ballot, with Carter just two points adrift.
Carter had been seen as a marginal front-runner on the eve of the election. Her critics claimed her closeness to Major League Soccer — she heads the company which markets the league — was a negative.
Cordeiro's previous roles with US Soccer had also come under scrutiny although he stressed his initial role as an independent advisor which started 10 years ago — he became Vice President in 2016 — meant he was very much his own man.
However, Cordeiro was handed a massive boost after the influential, Athletes Council, which included several former professionals voted en bloc for Cordeiro.
"Everyone was surprised about the Athletes Council," said Martino. "The result wasn't what we were hoping for but I saw unity in the room. Is Carlos the visionary we need? I hope so. That's what we need now."
Most of the rhetoric in the lead-up to the most contentious election in US Soccer history zoned in on an innate failure at the grassroots level to produce the kind of players which would help to build on a dream of winning the World Cup, potentially at home, in 2026.
Soccer is the most expensive sport for children to play — some US Soccer-affiliated teams charge $4,000 per season to play for them — leaving talented youngsters priced out.
"I am not surprised," Solo said after the election. "From day one we knew it would be very difficult to overthrow the establishment. We knew they would be the top two candidates.
"We are proud that the six of us on the side of change moved the needle forward in the right direction. Change doesn't happen overnight but we are here to stay."
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Updated Date: Feb 11, 2018 13:21:20 IST