Hope Solo has made at least two interesting points in her complaint to the US Olympic Committee.
Oh, God, that doesn’t mean I want you to support her, you chowderheads. It just means she brought up some things worth discussing.
Topic one was the NWSL, the one entity that will probably live or die based on the actions of the winner of the USSF election.
A hundred years ago Anschutz Entertainment Group told Women’s Professional Soccer that they would only operate the Los Angeles Sol for one year. It was a fun year, an exciting year, and a year full of great soccer and wonderful players. WPS would Athletica along until it finally magicJacked a couple years later, but I think the mortal wound was struck by AEG. Anyone was inclined to care at all realized that AEG had put in a decade and a half’s worth of effort into unprofitable men’s soccer, but wouldn’t give unprofitable women’s soccer a second season. Potential investors, a superstitious and cowardly lot, assumed good faith in AEG’s poor motivation.
They might have been right. If men’s professional soccer took twenty years to stick a burr into the American sports collective unconscious – and that’s a middling-size if – then professional women’s club soccer is going to take at least that long. And every time a team or a league ups and goes blooey, that’s another chilling effect. Think of it as the Doomsday Clock, but in reverse. Twenty years to midnight.
Which brings us to the Boston Breakers, who up and went blooey in a depressingly familiar way this month. I think this is worse than the Sol disaster. The Breakers ownership, specifically Michael Stoller, was pretty much the opposite of Phil Anschutz here – he had put in ten years or more worth of effort into this. That doesn’t mean making this announcement in January, after the bleedin’ draft, was helpful. If you’re going to make a public call for help, it needs to be done slightly earlier than a week before the bell tolls.
Since the USSF has taken a point position in the preservation and growth of the NWSL – Hope is right. Sunil Gulati, Dan Flynn and the federation needed to preserve the Boston Breakers. They needed to at least do what MLS did for the original San Jose Earthquakes – that is, keep them alive for at least a season, so potential owners could see the support and decide for themselves whether it was worth investing in.
I’m aware it didn’t work for the original Earthquakes, but the original Earthquakes were about to be thrown out of their already inadequate stadium. The Breakers could have played in small, inelegant facilities at this point. That’s sad, but Wilt Chamberlain scored a hundred points in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The NWSL is different, because of USSF’s patronization of it – in every sense of the word. Your last act in office, President Gulati, should not have been to sign off on the Breakers going to the Fun While It Lasted website.
Whether any of the candidates to replace Sunil will be able to apply their expertise to the NWSL is…oh, God, the poor NWSL. The brightest potential outcome is that they are in the NFL-in-the-Great-Depression phase of their history. The likely prospects are much worse. At least Hope brought it into the conversation.
And hell, if her solution is to siphon off SUM resources into it…that’s probably not going to work or be legal, but it shows initiative.
The other question Hope raised is one that neither she, nor anyone else, seems to have even considered. Why is the United States Soccer Federation answerable to the United States Olympic Committee in the first place?
Yes, I know, the Ted Stevens Act gave the USSF authority over Olympic soccer, under the USOC, by the legislative equivalent of laying on hands. But Hope raised a whole lot of non-Olympic, non-youth, non-amateur questions in her complaint. What is that to the United States Olympic Committee?
Never mind that the United States Olympic Committee needs investigation a hell of a lot more urgently than the United States Soccer Federation.
Fortunately, I have an answer. Good thing I’m here, huh?
The USSF’s main purpose is to manage disputes between players, teams and leagues. Oh, and they also need to field national teams. I think we can all be grownups about this and realize that the bread is coming from the national teams. The adult national teams. The adult professional national teams.
We’re in the middle of an election where most of the electorate represents amateurs and children. And even the pro vote is dispersed among leagues that average one US national team player every ten years or so.
What we have are candidates who have plans for the national team pie, and are crafting platforms to appeal to people who – how can one put this delicately – have about as much relevance to the national team as Theresa May has to Parliament-Funkadelic.
It no longer serves any useful purpose to have one organization in charge of youth soccer, amateur soccer, and professional soccer for the entire nation. Youth soccer and amateur soccer should be independent and regionalized. I’m not even sure you need a state organization for those, but anything more than that?
Unless all of a sudden we like the idea of a giant bureaucracy micromanaging your neighborhood team, or your school’s team, or your senior team. It doesn’t accomplish anything, except padding resumes. Management of local teams should be local. If Sunil Gulati didn’t have anything useful for you at the ground level – and he really didn’t – then why in God’s name would you want to hear from people like Hope Solo?
The other side of this coin is that right now, youth clubs and amateur leagues have more of a say in the direction of the professional national teams than fans do. They should have exactly as much – none. (Sorry, fellow fans, but you know it’s true.) The vicarious apostles of the Federation of International Football Associations should represent FIFA issues, FIFA tournaments, and FIFA concerns. The USSF - the rump USSF, the professional USSF, the USSF that deals with money and sponsors – should represent that.
It conveniently won’t be under the shield of the Ted Stevens Act, or the United States Olympic Committee, or any of the nonsense that has made recent months so unpleasantly legalistic. No more paying, or not paying, players based on a botched reading of the Olympic mission.
And no more hiding behind children and amateurs to avoid the contradictions between United States law and FIFA fiat. The other great abuse of power stems from the doctrine that national governments should not “interfere” with FIFA. That’s unconscionable, and thankfully the United States is big enough to draw a line. Do business in the United States, follow United States law.
Sunil Gulati, for the most part, has wisely used US law over FIFA statutes/regulations/whims. He’s done a lot of other things wrong, that’s certainly true. We’re here to bury, not praise. But if Gulati’s replacement decides that FIFA trumps the United States, the hammer will fall, and we will certainly lose out on the World Cup.
You know, the World Cup, that ocean of money that could secure the sport in the United States forever.
Hope Solo didn’t bring that up, but I never said she was the PERFECT candidate, now, did I.
At least tomorrow this will all be over, and we can go back to #SaveTheCrew. Or, more likely, silly Zlatan Ibrahimovic rumors.
LAST MINUTE ADDITION - I never got around to mentioning this, but another thing I hate about Kyle Martino?
or WHATEVER the hell it was supposed to stand for. There's something so skin-crawling about coming up with a cutesy acronym to push your boring and/or stupid policy. What's next, the