Sometimes It's Just Smoke

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This article sprang to life when a quick press release was issued by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). In the press release was the seemingly bland news about the election of two new members to the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors. The two new members, elected to a two-year term, were Mike Cullina and Alec Papadakis. This information in and of itself is not the type of news that brings traffic to the site and would probably be overlooked during playoff season. But many questions are lying there in the dirt if you simply swirl a stick in the dust. Who are these two men? What process took them into positions of power?

So let’s lay some groundwork. Mike Cullina, who was elected as the At-Large Representative, takes the place of John Collins. Collins had previously served as the general counsel for U.S. Soccer from 1997-2001, according to his CV. He had announced his withdrawal from re-election at the AGM in February. Cullina has a track record of actually working in soccer, which is certainly a departure from the previous candidate who held his position. According to the press release, “[Cullina] is currently the Executive Director of Prince William Soccer and Virginia Development Academy and President of the Virginia NPL. Additionally, he is a member of the U.S. Soccer Youth Task Force. Cullina holds a U.S. Soccer National A Coaching License.”

The other newly elected member of the board is Alec Papadakis. He was elected as one of two Pro Council Representatives. The previous holder of his seat was Steve Malik. Malik is the owner of USL Championship member North Carolina FC and 2018 NWSL Champion North Carolina Courage. Papadakis is the CEO of the USL and has served in that role since 2009. He’s a lawyer, which is no surprise, but also had a career playing the sport, playing in the old NASL for the Atlanta Chiefs and Boston Minutemen. This is the second time Papadakis has served on the board in this role.

From the resumes of both candidates, they seem like qualified candidates for the role, having coached and played the game for extended periods of their lives. But the question remained, how were these candidates determined and by what process were they elected?

As far as Papadakis’s election is concerned, U.S. Soccer responded, “We would refer you to the Professional Council for more information, as U.S. Soccer staff was not involved in that process.” At this time, we haven’t reached out to the Professional Council for that information as the second part of the response indicates the process. U.S. had more information regarding the election of Mr. Cullina. “This year there were three nominees:  Mike Cullina (winner with more than a majority of votes cast), Craig Scriven, and Rishi Sehgal. Mr. Cullina received 70.58% of the vote, Mr. Scriven received 17.6% of the vote, and Mr. Sehgal received 11.7% of the vote.” The candidates, according to U.S. Soccer, were nominated by the Council they would represent.

When we started digging into this story we had a particular view in mind, that there was something ominous and overly secretive going on in US Soccer and that these elections were part of a broader conspiracy to rob us of our control of soccer. The reality is much more bland and boring. U.S. Soccer is nothing more than massive corporation (I’m aware it’s technically a non-profit, but when you’re turning 100 million dollar surpluses, I can’t pretend) doing what massive corporations do - electing those that are connected into positions of power and recycling friends of friends. That’s how all corporations (and apparently, some non-profits) work. It’s sad and disappointing, but it is what it is.

There is a lot of reasonable complaints about U.S. Soccer. This election doesn’t appear to be anything to complain about.

- Dan Vaughn