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U.S. Soccer

Gulati is acclaimed new USSF president; board size is slashed.

By Robert Wagman

LAS VEGAS (Saturday, March 11, 2006) -- It's now official. Dr. Sunil has succeeded Dr. Bob as president of the United States Soccer Federation.

Sunil Gulati was elected today to a four-year term as president at the USSF Annual General Meeting here. Bob Contiguglia, the Denver physician who has held the post since 1998, decided eight years was enough and did not run for re-election.

In another major development today, the USSF executive committee was eliminated and the board of directors was reduced from 42 to 15.

Gulati, who ran without opposition, was nominated by Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber. "If the history of soccer in this country were written today, there would already be a chapter entitled 'Gulati,' " Garber said, "He has been totally devoted to the belief the U.S. can be truly a soccer nation. He believed the U.S. could have a top men's league. His vision as a founder and as a key executive, and as a board member of MLS is a reason soccer has a major league in the U.S. today.

"He is someone who will bring the sport together, who will usher in a new era of progress, someone who take this federation to even greater levels of achievement and who will write the next chapter in our sport's history."

Gulati, 46, is currently the USSF executive vice president and serves on its Executive Committee. He is also president of Kraft Soccer, which owns and operates MLS's New England Revolution. Additionally, Gulati is on the boards of MLS, the MLS marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

He was instrumental in the founding of MLS. He served as the MLS deputy commissioner from the league's inception in 1995 to 1999, responsible for all player-related issues, including player acquisition and development. Prior to that, Gulati was executive vice president and chief international officer for World Cup USA '94.

"I think he's the right person for the job," Contiguglia said. "His growth within the organization, and within MLS, has been superb. He's really passionate about the game. I think he'll do a really good job."

Gulati also holds a number of international positions with world governing body FIFA, including being a member of the World Club Championship Committee and Task Force for Clubs, in addition to being chairman of the CONCACAF National Teams Committee. CONCACAF, the U.S.'s federation, includes nations from North America, Central America and the Federation.

Still, Gulati finds time to put his Ph.D. in economics to use, teaching at New York City's Columbia University. His course for the current spring semester is Econ W2257 - The Global Economy.

In accepting the election, Gaulti shared a little of his vision of the future -- continued growth on the foundation that has already been established.

"We can't get complacent with an eighth-place finish or a gold medal," referring, respectively, to the U.S. men advancing to the World Cup's quarterfinals, and the women's team having won the 2004 Summer Olympics championship, in addition to capturing the 1996 Olympics title and two World Cup crowns (1991, 1999) and two Summer Olympics (1996, 2004).

"Winning gives us respect in all areas. (In regard to the Federation itself), we have to continue growing. "We can't stop now that we have three-and-a-half or four million members. We need to gain new members and retain the one's we have. That means more and more using the mass media to reach a new audience. It's television and working with our partners like SUM."

Gulati looked back on a 14-year relationship with USSF secretary general Dan Flynn, a relationship that long precedes Flynn's tenure in his present role.

"At noon today, we hit the ground running," Gulati said, "We will soon be meeting with our commercial and media partners, and then with the governing bodies we report to - FIFA and the USOC (U.S. Olympic Committee). I think this will be a seamless transition."

Gulati was elected to a position that is more ceremonial than the one Contiguglia assumed eight years ago. Since Flynn took over as secretary general in 2000, he assumed more and more of the day-to-day operating duties. At the 2005 annual meeting, Contiguglia ceded to Flynn much of his power over the daily proceedings, as then stated in the USSF by-laws. The operating power held by the president was statutorily transferred to the secretary general and Flynn added the title of chief executive officer to secretary general.

Gulati's responsibilities will be to set the tone for the USSF. He will serve as chairman of the organization's board of directors, and as the official delegate to FIFA and other international organizations. Gulati has already been delegated much of that responsibility over the past several years by Contiguglia.

The move to reduce the size of the board was a particularly contentious issue. After hours of wrangling and consideration of five different motions, a compromise was reached and passed by acclimation.

The board was reduced in size in an effort to have it more closely represent its three councils -- Professional, Youth, Adult -- and other constituencies. The 15 new board members will consist of the USSF president, vice president and treasurer, two members each from the adult, youth and professional councils, three former athletes, as well as one for groups not otherwise represented and two outside members.

All five motions called for the end of the executive committee.

Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent. E-mail Robert Wagman.

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