New York (AFP) – Calls to oust US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati abounded on Wednesday as the humiliation sunk in of the Americans failing to qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup.
A 2-1 loss Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago combined with triumphs by Honduras and Panama eliminated the US squad, which had not misssed a World Cup since 1986.
India-born American Gulati, 58, has been the US Soccer Federation president since 2006 but new elections are in February and a call for new leadership has been swift and loud from fans and media commentators.
“Dramatic changes must be made at many levels, but it all starts at the top,” said a statement on the American Outlaws website, the online home of one of the largest US team supporter groups.
“In no uncertain terms, the President of the United States Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati, must go. Despite past successes he has presided over an unmitigated disaster and the federation needs fresh leadership and ideas from top to bottom.”
Gulati told The New York Times after the US match that his re-election candidacy “is not a decision for me to think about tonight,” and added, “We will look at everything, obviously, all of our programs, both the national team and all the development stuff. But we’ve got some pieces in place that we think are very good and are coming along.”
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, in a post on the magazine’s website, said Gulati must go and restructuring of US Soccer is needed.
“The push for an overhaul of the US Soccer Federation will be stronger than ever from fans, from media and from American soccer stakeholders who’ve invested millions of dollars in the growth of the sport—including USSF sponsors like Nike, Coca-Cola and Budweiser, MLS owners and television rights-holders like Fox Sports, ESPN and Univision,” Wahl wrote.
“A massive reboot needs to happen in a federation that has too often been opaque, insular and woefully resistant to change over the years, and it has to start at the top with the replacement of US Soccer president Sunil Gulati. It’s time.”
Filip Bondy, writing on the Forbes magazine website, agreed that, “This surely marks the end of the Sunil Gulati era for US Soccer.
“Fairly or not, Gulati’s legacy has been badly tarnished. He can’t hope to win reelection as president in February now that the Americans have failed at their single most important task.”