The president of US Soccer has a big job.
He oversees all levels of the sport in the United States — from the millions of kids playing to the pros, and of course the men’s and women’s national teams. By virtue of this country’s size and wealth — if not our international soccer prowess — he’s one of the most powerful people in the global sports world.
In the coming months, his job will be bigger than ever. He’ll help lead a US bid — with Canada and Mexico — to host the 2026 World Cup.
He’s also charged with naming a new men’s national team coach, and putting together that shattered program in the wake of the Americans’ dismal failure to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
If things work out, that new President of US Soccer may be 1999 Staples High School grad Kyle Martino.
The New York Times calls the Weston resident “perhaps (the) biggest name yet” to enter the race — and “the biggest threat” to current president Sunil Gulati. The 3-term president — also a Connecticut native — has not yet announced if he will run again.
Though just 36 years old, Martino has strong credentials. A Wrecker star — and Gatorade National High School Player of the Year — who went on to college powerhouse the University of Virginia, he earned Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year honors with the Columbus Crew.
He later played with the Los Angeles Galaxy — where he teamed with the legendary David Beckham — and appeared 8 times with the US national team. He scored a goal in an important World Cup qualifier against Panama.
After retiring from pro soccer, Martino became a television analyst. He covers England’s Premier League for NBC Sports, and is known for his astute insights, strong personality and great TV presence.
Martino announced a 3-pronged plan on his website, EveryonesGameUSA.com. The components include “transparency, equality and progress” in American soccer. He is particularly concerned about the financial barriers that deter some youth players, and the “mistreatment” of female athletes.
One obstacle Martino faced is that the presidency is unpaid. He and his wife — actress and blogger Eva Amurri — have 2 young children. But he’s assembled a consortium of backers; he’s launched a GoFundMe campaign, and if elected he hopes to turn the job into a salaried post. (Gulati is a senior lecturer in economics at Columbia University, and receives a stipend for sitting on FIFA’s executive committee.)
Martino — who has taken a leave from NBC Sports — says, “I won’t be able to forgive myself if I don’t stand up for US Soccer right now. I didn’t dream of doing this job, but I know I have to do it.”
Other candidates include former national team players Eric Wynalda and Paul Caligiuri, among others. The election is February 10.
Win or lose, Martino will retain his affection for Staples soccer. Most recently, he led a project called “Etched in Stone,” honoring former players who died young. He did it in memory of his friend Drew Tursi, brother of Martino’s ex-teammate Brad Tursi.
Martino appeared at the dedication ceremony last month. It was one small — but important — way for him to give back to the game.
(Click here for the full New York Times story.)