U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro steps down amid USWNT pay dispute

Carlos Cordeiro has resigned as president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, effective immediately, according to a statement posted on Twitter on Thursday.

He will be replaced by Cindy Parlow Cone, who had been serving as USSF vice president.

The move follows a week of intense scrutiny on Cordeiro and the USSF, which began with court filings in the equal pay lawsuit that disparaged players on the U.S. women's national team, plaintiffs in the suit. The filings claimed that the women "do not perform equal work requiring equal skill [and] effort" to the men because "the overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men's national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes such as speed and strength."

Following an intense backlash from players and executives, a Thursday conference call of the USSF board of directors was held in which Cordeiro determined he would resign.

"It has been an incredible privilege to serve as the President of U.S. Soccer," Cordeiro said via Twitter. "My one and only mission has always been to do what is best for our Federation. After discussions with the Board of Directors, I have decided to step down, effective immediately."

Cordeiro admitted he didn't review the controversial court documents filed by federation attorneys on Monday, and he took responsibility for not doing so.

"Had I done so, I would have objected to the language that did not reflect my personal admiration for our women's players or our values as an organization," Cordeiro said.

Molly Levinson, spokesperson for the U.S. women, said in a statement: "While it is gratifying that there has been such a deafening outcry against USSF's blatant misogyny, the sexist culture and policies overseen by Carlos Cordeiro have been approved for years by the board of directors of USSF. This institution must change and support and pay women players equally."

The failure of Cordeiro -- or any other board member -- to either oversee or convince the attorneys to alter the filings did immense damage to the USSF. The criticism was intense, wide-ranging and lasted all week.

At Wednesday's 3-1 win against Japan at the SheBelieves Cup, the U.S. women wore their training gear inside out to hide the crest yet still display the four stars on shirt, which signified the four World Cups the team has won.

During a postgame interview, U.S. star Megan Rapinoe blasted the USSF's language and approach.

"We've sort of felt that those are some of the undercurrent feelings that they've had for a long time," Rapinoe said, referring to the court document. "But to see that as the argument, as blatant misogyny and sexism as the argument against us, is really disappointing.

"But I just want to say, it's all false. To every girl out there, to every boy out there, who watches this team, who wants to be on this team, or just wants to live their dream out, you are not lesser just because you're a girl. You are not better just because you're a boy."

Sponsors began to weigh in as well, with Deloitte saying that it "is deeply committed to all forms of inclusion, including gender equality. That's why our sponsorship this past season has focused on the U.S. women's soccer players' SheBelieves movement and on championing female leadership. While our support for the team is unwavering, we are deeply offended by the views expressed by the USSF."

Cordeiro attempted to backtrack from the filing by issuing a statement on Wednesday in which he apologized for the language, but the damage was done. On Thursday, criticism came even from inside the USSF via Cone, board members Chris Ahrens and MLS commissioner Don Garber, as well as former U.S. women's international Heather O'Reilly, who as part of the USSF Athletes Council cast a vote for Cordeiro to be president.

It was back in 2018 that Cordeiro replaced Sunil Gulati after a bruising election campaign that took place amid the backdrop of the failure of the U.S. men's team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Cordeiro managed to portray himself as an outsider, even though he had sat on the board for over a decade. He fended off the challenge of seven other candidates, winning 68.6% of the vote on the third ballot.

Among Cordeiro's campaign promises was to address the equal pay issue, as he told ESPN: "We clearly need to work toward equal pay for the national teams."

Cordeiro's securing of the co-hosting rights to the 2026 World Cup was an early victory during his tenure, but the rest of his stint was fraught with problems that extended beyond the equal pay lawsuit, some of which he inherited.

The USSF is currently engaged in an additional five lawsuits, including a similar lawsuit filed by former U.S. women's international Hope Solo, an antitrust suit involving the North American Soccer League, an antitrust lawsuit from sports promoter Relevent Sports over the sanctioning of league games in the U.S. involving foreign teams, as well as a lawsuit from the U.S. Soccer Foundation over use of the foundation's name and logo.

The CEO position, long held by Dan Flynn inside the federation, also remains open following his retirement last year.

Yet it was ultimately the equal pay lawsuit that brought Cordeiro down. While Monday's court filings were explosive, they were also consistent with the USSF's legal approach to the lawsuit, indicating that further questions will need to be asked of the board in the aftermath.