Eric Wynalda to stand for U.S. Soccer presidency, eyes changes to MLS

Former United States international Eric Wynalda says he will run for the role of U.S. Soccer Federation president, and his platform could call for major changes to Major League Soccer.

Wynalda told ESPN FC on Saturday that he's "a firm believer" in promotion and relegation and would like to move MLS to the European season calendar. He would also push for equal pay for men's and women's national teams.

Wynalda, who won 106 caps and scored 34 goals for the U.S., will go up against Boston attorney Steve Gans and amateur league director Paul Lapointe for the position, while incumbent Sunil Gulati is also expected to stand for re-election. Former U.S. star player Landon Donovan has also suggested he is interested in running for the position.

Wynalda, who works as an analyst for Fox Sports and has held coaching and executive roles at lower-league U.S. clubs, confirmed to Soccer America on Sunday that he will enter the race.

He then spoke to ESPN FC in an exclusive interview on Saturday before a meeting of the National Council of the U.S. Adult Soccer Association.

"One important part of this is I'm not running against Sunil Gulati, I'm running for soccer," Wynalda said. "I have sat back and watched for way too many years and wondered why. I have taken time recently to really figure out why. Why is it the way it is? And I'm going to fix it."

In his hopes to turn revitalize soccer in the U.S., Wynalda said "changing the culture is the key." To that end, he said he believes changing MLS to the FIFA calendar used in Europe -- generally August-May -- from the current March-December slate would be "extremely beneficial."

"If we're going to create a signature final for example, we cannot have an MLS Cup in December up against the start of basketball, college football and the NFL," he said. "We've got to figure where that little window is to maybe get people to pay attention."

Asked about weather concerns in the winter months, Wynalda said of the current schedule: "We start in March in bad weather and we finish in December in worse weather. So we have weather that's going to be a challenge, but it is silly of us to play our games of relevance and our playoffs in those conditions."

As for introducing a system of promotion and relegation, Wynalda said: "At this point, at this juncture, all I can tell you is yes, I'm a firm believer in promotion/relegation. Does it fit within our structure right now? No. These are conversations that need to be had."

Gulati is leading the charge for the U.S. to co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada, but he has been under increased scrutiny since the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

He has held the position for the past 12 years and had never been opposed in any of the previous three elections in which he has run for the federation's top post, and he told ESPN FC on Saturday that he still has not decided whether he will run again in 2018.

The election is set to be held at U.S. Soccer's 2018 annual general meeting, which takes place from Feb. 8-11 in Orlando, Florida.

Wynalda will need three nominations between now and early December to get on the ballot, and he claimed to already have 26 votes. Gans already has three nominations, while Gulati would be expected to do the same should he stand for re-election.

Information from ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle contributed to the report.