Donovan Mulls Bid for USSF President

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US logoLandon Donovan is ready to dedicate himself to improving soccer in the United States, but is not certain where he would be most useful. At an event in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, Donovan told Empire of Soccer he is still thinking about running for the presidency of the United States Soccer Federation, but has yet to make a decision.

“My goal in all of this is to help make this thing better,” Donovan said. “Now whether that’s formally, informally, in a high-ranking role, behind the scenes, I don’t know. I think what all of us woke up to a few weeks ago was that we’re not doing enough. I looked at myself in the mirror and said I’m not doing enough. I may not get it right, I may not have all the answers but I’m not going to sit by and just let it happen because it made me sick. We all put too much into it to let it go.”

Donovan had said earlier that he would consider a bid for the presidency. He was in New York as part of an event held by Hisense, a Chinese television manufacturer and sponsor of U.S. Soccer, where said that U.S. Soccer needed to improve coaching on all levels and address pay-to-play. He said without someone offering financial assistance, the less affluent would not have access to better coaching and a chance at a professional career.

“I didn’t have the ability to pay for soccer so who knows what might have happened,” Donovan said. “I may have never made it. [Clint] Dempsey isn’t someone of color, but he didn’t grow up affluent or wealthy but he made it. We can’t afford to miss that. We should have 20 Dempseys. In this country, we should have 20 of them every year. That’s what Argentina has, Brazil has, etc. That is the most crucial piece to me but the question is how do you solve it? It’s not an easy answer.”

Donovan said that U.S. Soccer could not afford to subsidize costs for every player but was confident that a solution could be found to make the game more affordable. Also as important to Donovan as solving the pay-for-play issue is solving the scattershot approach in the men’s professional pyramid. Donovan said it’s not mutually exclusive to have strong lower leagues while also maintaining Major League Soccer as a strong Division I league.

“Just because you have MLS doesn’t mean you can’t have a vibrant pyramid all the way down,” he said. “Does it makes sense to have two Division I leagues? No it doesn’t. But does it make sense to have a strong Division I, a strong Division II, a strong Division III? Absolutely it does and I think there’s a way where you can have both. It shouldn’t be a fight to see who is going to be Division I, it should be how do we all get together and make it better. If we all could sit down and take our ego out of it, take ourselves out of it and say ‘do we really care about winning a World Cup one day?’ If the answer is yes, then we can all work together. If the answer is no, that’s fine, people can do their own thing. I believe the answer is yes.”

On the subject of personal ambition, ego and arrogance, Donovan agreed with former Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna’s assertion that there was a “culture of arrogance” within both U.S. Soccer and soccer in the U.S. He said that stemmed from the belief that qualifying for the World Cup could be taken for granted given the team’s standing in CONCACAF.

As president, Donovan would oversee not just technical operations of U.S. Soccer but its administrative, financial and political aspects as well. To those, Donovan admitted his limitations.

“How could I know more than Sunil [Gulati], Dan Flynn or Jay Berhalter or anybody else in the organization about the administration, governance or business or legal side of it?” he said. “That would be unbelievably narcissistic to think that I could help out in that way. On the technical side, I lived it. I lived it every step of the way, it doesn’t mean I have the answers but I have a lot of experience that I can use to help. My goal moving forward is to make sure I have an impact on that side. What that looks like, I can’t tell you. I’m assessing everything and trying to see what makes the most sense. I want to help and I believe I should be a part of that process.”