Race for U.S. Soccer presidency takes an unexpected twist with Cordeiro's candidacy

Carlos Cordeiro watches warmups before the United States’ match vs. Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10. (AP)

Sunil Gulati might have an unexpected challenger for his presidency of the United States Soccer Federation: his vice president.

Carlos Cordeiro announced his candidacy on Wednesday in an emailed statement to media members, citing a need for new leadership and a new approach.

“Our sport is at a critical juncture, and while we have accomplished much together, there are significant challenges to address if we are to consistently fulfill our potential,” the statement said. “These challenges require new leadership with an inclusive, collaborative and dynamic approach to establish our great nation as a real force in domestic and international soccer.”

Many assumed Cordeiro would simply support the re-election campaign of Gulati, who has held the position since 2006 but come under fire for the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

But now, either Gulati has a fight on his hands he wasn’t expecting, or Cordeiro’s announcement might signal Gulati’s intent to not seek re-election.

In either case, Cordeiro identified specific points of priority in his campaign, including governance, youth soccer programs, adult soccer programs, professional leagues, athletes and commercial interests.

He also announced the launch of what he calls “Mission 26/27”, which seeks to align all levels of U.S. Soccer and win bids to host both the 2026 World Cup and 2027 Women’s World Cup, which Cordeiro said is the most important strategic priority from now until next June when the host sites are announced.

“Our Women’s National Team program has set the bar for what we can achieve on the world stage,” the statement said. “For our women to continue their success, and for our men to excel at the same level, all of our National Team programs deserve world-class coaches, facilities and infrastructure consistent with the highest competition.”

Cordeiro also proposed a redesign of the process of hiring national team coaches, which would include vetting through a technical committee, and various changes that will make U.S. Soccer resemble other national team federations.

A member of the USSF since 2006 and elected as vice president last year, Cordeiro becomes the fourth person to announce his candidacy for the presidential election, which will take place in February. He joins U.S. hall of famer Eric Wynalda, Boston-based attorney Steve Gans and Northeast United Premiere Soccer League official Paul Lapointe in the race.

Gulati has said he will consider running for re-election, which will be the first contested USSF presidential election since 1998, but hasn’t announced anything formally. Nor has Landon Donovan, who’s been vocal about the need for change but refused to throw his hat in the ring.

Even if he doesn’t, Cordeiro’s announcement spiced up the race considerably.

Joey Gulino is the editor of FC Yahoo and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.