The news of U.S. and Swiss authorities executing arrests and warrants on FIFA and CONCACAF today are shaking the sports world, and while the news is quickly changing with constant updates and information, there is one thing that we can be sure of: FIFA will be changed from this day forward. Unlike some of my fellow soccer writers, I am not seeing today’s development as the end of FIFA. It is too soon to make such pronouncements and to be honest I can see scenarios where Sepp Blatter not only survives but comes out stronger when he is reelected to his post on Friday.
However, now is a key time for the U.S. Soccer Federation to act and begin to take the moral high ground and gain more power in soccer’s governing body.
U.S. Soccer, much like its men’s national team, has never been a major power in international soccer debates. Yes, the country hosted the 1994 World Cup but in the major FIFA controversies, the federation is a smaller player than the traditional European and South American powers. During the most controversial moments of Blatter’s reign, especially in the immediate aftermath of the Russia 2018/Qatar 2022 votes, USSF behaved and did not stir up trouble in the press. The federation has never been a rabble rouser, and has traditionally hammered out disagreements behind the scenes.
“After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start – a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world…” – Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly T. Currie
With the FBI and US Justice Department dropping the hammer on CONCACAF, all that must change. US Soccer can no longer disassociate itself from the cause of public reform of FIFA simply because the country’s top cops are dragging current and former officials to jail. If and when Blatter survives this scandal, one would be naive not to assume USSF will suffer for something it likely is only associated with due to geography. If his regime does fall, and US Soccer stands on the sidelines, it will miss an opportunity to make a power play in a new FIFA governing body.
Damned if they do and damned if they don’t, Sunil Gulati and USSF must take this opportunity to seize the mantle of reform and publicly advocate for changes in FIFA and CONCACAF. The legal authorities have done the heavy lifting of gathering evidence and openly making a case against both governing bodies, thus leaving US Soccer to make the moral case from within the sport itself.
Ironically, the U.S. can succeed where traditional power England has failed. Despite the incredible work of its national newspapers and reports detailing the scandals before and after the 2018/2022 World Cup votes, England and other UEFA members to this point had failed to force Blatter out and open the books on how those World Cups were really awarded. If USSF plays the right strategy, it can be the federation that comes in to tip the scales to true reform.
SEE ALSO — Can anyone smash the Blatter system in FIFA?
Could it backfire? Absolutely. Blatter could remain in power and the U.S. would be a major pariah in his eyes, dooming the federation to no rewards of being a loyal FIFA follower. But with the soccer world quickly turning, fortune favors the bold and staying on the sidelines can have its own equally negative consequences. Now is the time for the U.S. to take a larger role in soccer moral governance and help turn the world’s most popular sport into one of the world’s most transparent sports.
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