Kathy Carter, the president of Soccer United Marketing and a recent candidate for the presidency of the U.S. Soccer Federation, has announced that she is leaving the position to pursue other opportunities.
Carter was among the leading candidates for the USSF presidency, but was viewed as someone who would maintain the status quo. Over the course of the campaign she became a lightning rod for the close relationship between the USSF, Major League Soccer and SUM. SUM serves as the marketing arm for MLS and manages the commercial rights for the USSF.
Carter took a leave of absence from SUM during the campaign for USSF president, but ultimately lost the election to Carlos Cordeiro.
"Coming back in after taking a leave of absence, it was a good time for me to take stock and really reflect on what I've been able to do for the last 20 years," Carter told ESPN FC in a phone interview. "I feel pretty good with the body of work I have here at MLS and at SUM. And it was just the right time before I really got re-engaged back in the business coming back off the election to take a minute and determine if this is where I went to spend the next number of years or is it time for me to go and take swings at some other things."
Carter said losing out to Cordeiro in the USSF election didn't influence her decision to leave SUM, but that the experience of running for president of the federation did open her eyes.
"It didn't actually. It wasn't the fact that [the election] was draining, but it was more illustrated that there is so much more to do out there," Carter said. "While I've been working incredibly hard here, there is so much more to do.
"That's what the election actually showed me, and there's a lot where we can put our efforts in, and so actually it was more a catalyst that opened my eyes and it's time for me to apply my energies to the next great challenge."
Carter, whose last day with SUM will be April 13, has had a long career on the business side of the game, having served as a vice president for Anschutz Entertainment Group, owners of the LA Galaxy. She also worked in an executive capacity for Envision, as well as ISL United States, a subsidiary of ISL that at one point handled the media rights for FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Asked if she planned to seek out a new role somewhere in the world of soccer, Carter said: "I'm wide open, but I'd say this game is my passion. By the same token, so many of the things that I've been talking to folks about are in some cases in soccer, in some cases outside, and in some cases very tangentially important to the game. I'm never going to leave the game. It's always going to be in my blood and it's always going to be in my heart."
In a statement released on Monday, Carter said: "My time with Soccer United Marketing and Major League Soccer has been deeply meaningful -- building and expanding the game has been my profession and my passion. I'm grateful for the life-long friendships I've made and the support I've received from the Commissioner, MLS Business Ventures President Gary Stevenson and all of my colleagues at the league, and look forward to seeing MLS continue its incredible growth. I will remain a huge supporter of MLS and U.S. Soccer and will be cheering loudly from the stands for our clubs and players."
Carter also served as MLS' vice president of corporate marketing from the league's inception until late 1999 and worked on the organizing committee for the 1994 World Cup. Carter played collegiately as a goalkeeper at William & Mary. She said that no plans have been made as of yet regarding her successor at SUM.
"The group that I had in place was well capable of taking on the challenges," Carter said. "And Gary [Stevenson] will continue. I'm sure there will be modifications, resources will be put in different places. There's a great team of people here, and they didn't miss a beat during my leave of absence. I think they'll be fine and this sport will continue on in great ways."
MLS commissioner and SUM CEO Don Garber said in a statement: "I would like to thank Kathy on behalf of our owners, clubs and staff for the significant contributions she has made to the sport of soccer in the U.S. and Canada while at SUM and MLS. Kathy played a critical role in the development of our league and the growth of soccer in North America for many years.
"Her energy, leadership and strong relationships helped establish SUM as one of the leading commercial soccer companies in the world. We wish her the best of luck in the next chapter in her career."