Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter has confirmed to ESPN FC that she is exploring a run for the presidency of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
SI.com's Grant Wahl first tweeted the possibility that Carter will run. One source told ESPN FC that Carter is in "the final stages" of formalizing her bid, and put her chances of running at "95 percent." The source added that Carter, whose position has her helping to run the marketing arm of MLS, has gone so far as to hire an outside agency separate from SUM and MLS to handle the logistics of her campaign, and could make an announcement in the next 48 hours.
Multiple sources indicated that if Carter does run, it's a strong indicator that current USSF president Sunil Gulati will decide not to seek re-election. One source indicated that Carter is running at the urging of Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber.
Carter was more circumspect, and issued a statement indicating she hasn't made a final decision.
"I am exploring a run for President of the United States Soccer Federation because soccer can and should become the leading sport in America, and I believe I could help make that vision a reality," Carter said in a statement via email.
"The game of soccer has been a consistent thread through every aspect of my life. I have spent over 40 years as a player, executive and fan of the beautiful game. Going forward, our growth and advancement as a sport requires excellence at every level -- from our youth and adult programs to our professional leagues and our national teams."
Should Carter formally announce her intentions to run, she would be the only woman in a crowded field that includes former U.S. international Paul Caligiuri, current USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro, Boston-based attorney Steve Gans, Springfield, Mass.-based businessman and soccer entrepreneur Paul Lapointe, former player and current broadcaster Kyle Martino, New York-based attorney Mike Winograd, and former U.S. international and current broadcaster Eric Wynalda.
"Should I decide to run, I will first look to engage the federation's many stakeholders as part of the process," she said. "I believe we need new ideas and I look forward to listening to fresh perspectives on how to advance our game. The federation and our sport is primed for greatness and I will enter the race if I believe I can help to deliver results for the Federation's members, players, and fans."
Carter has a long career on the business side of the game, having served as a vice president for Anschutz Entertainment Group, who own the Los Angeles Galaxy. Carter has also worked in an executive capacity for Envision, as well as ISL United States, a subsidiary of the company that at one point did business with FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Association of Athletics Federations.
ISL went bankrupt in 2001 amid hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, and was later found to have paid bribes to leading soccer figures, including former FIFA president Joao Havelange and then-FIFA Executive Committee member Ricardo Teixeira. Carter wasn't implicated in any of the corrupt activity.
Carter also served as MLS' vice president of corporate marketing, from the league's inception until late 1999. She also worked on the organizing committee for the 1994 World Cup. Carter also has experience on the playing side of the game, having played collegiately as a goalkeeper at William & Mary.
While Carter's resume is extensive, she will run into resistance from some segments of the USSF's voting membership that view her tenure at SUM as problematic. The failure of the U.S. men's national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup has led many to call for a break from the leadership of Gulati, and Carter will be seen by some quarters as representing the status quo.
The issue of the conflict of interest between MLS, SUM, and the USSF -- which has a deep business relationship with SUM -- will also draw fire from opponents. One source characterized her candidacy as a "Hail Mary" on the part of Gulati and Garber to have a preferred candidate in the field. There are less than 10 days remaining until the filing deadline for candidates on Dec. 12.
That said, her experience on the business side of the game is impressive, and she would add some diversity to an organization that is still male-dominated.
The developments in the USSF presidential election campaign come ahead of a meeting of the USSF Board of Directors on Dec. 10 in Toronto following the MLS Cup. Multiple sources have told ESPN FC that among the items on the agenda is a set of policy changes that would alter the future role of the USSF president.
Gulati has been criticized in the past for having too much power over decisions such as the selection of national team coaches. The changes, if approved, would see the president become more of a Chairman of the Board type of position that would be more collaborative in nature, especially as it relates to the hiring of national team coaches.