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Hope Solo, USSF presidential candidate, answers ESPN's questions

Hope Solo, USSF presidential candidate, answers ESPN's questions
From ESPN - January 12, 2018

Ahead of the United States Soccer Federation presidential election on Feb. 10, ESPN FC asked the eight candidates running to succeed Sunil Gulati to addressa series of questions,in 150 or fewer words per answer.

Here is what Hope Solo had to say.

The U.S. men have not only failed to qualify for the World Cup, but also the last two Olympics. What needs to be done to get the program back on track?

We cannot let players slip through the cracks. The state associations do what they can to serve all communities, but with very little support from USSF. This is unacceptable. It's an arrogant and classist belief that we only need to scout players from the "super clubs." Skilled players are in every corner of America. We should no longer be recruiting kids to play for one team in every state, and creating "super clubs." This does not create character or "battle test" these youth players. Often times, these teams win games 6-0 or even more. We need talent spread throughout the state. We need parity. We need to end the ruthless recruiting. Our coaching curriculum does not do the job either. Why do we only have 3,000 A level coaches in America? A small country like Spain has approximately 20,000. Even our coaching programs have become exclusive and expensive.

What makes you qualified to run an organization with 170 full-time employees and an annual budget of around $100 million?

Great leaders have the courage and fortitude to challenge the status quo. They persist through adversity. They have an unbreakable work ethic and no matter how high they ascend, they never stop learning. For the past 18 years, this has been my path. The same commitment that made me the best goalkeeper in the world, will define my leadership as president. No one person has all the qualifications to address every aspect of this job. The best and most "qualified" president will be the strongest leader; the person who knows how to cultivate a culture of success and build a team that embodies it from top to bottom. That is what I will bring to the presidency, along with a personal network of powerful people in the worlds of business, politics and international soccer who will help me build the most capable executive team the USSF has ever had.

To what extent are outside sources financing your campaign and who is contributing?

My campaign is 100 percent self-funded.

During his time as president, Sunil Gulati operated in more of an executive/hands-on role. The USSF Board of Directors is moving to make the position more of a chairperson role with less power. Do you agree with this move?

The timing of the change is questionable and seems connected to Sunil's departure, giving Dan Flynn more power. I do think the centrality of the position caused some of the associations and memberships of U.S. Soccer to feel disregarded and unheard. The communication needs to flow upwards with more ease and effectiveness. If this change would encourage that flow, I could be for it, but I am not yet convinced.

What can the USSF do to help create more Christian Pulisics? What needs to change on the youth development side and is it a problem if more players follow his lead?

I addressed most of this in the first question, but I will add that in a country this big and this diverse, there ca not just be one prescribed way to success. The route needs to be varied and that variance encouraged. I want to encourage our children as they play, to define the soccer culture of the United States from within. Soccer is the world's game and the U.S. is the ultimate melting pot of ideas and identities; we should foster that in our culture and in the paths our talented players create as well.

How would you reform the youth system so that the cost to families, which often run into several thousand dollars annually, is not so prohibitive?

We need to have an inclusive pathway. That pathway once was through the ODP programs, through state cups, and through regionals and nationals. But it still costs families significant amounts of money. That's why each state needs support from the federation, to help lower income families. We also need to allow the states to give steep penalties for those teams found recruiting/behaving unethically. Right now, most of the players being brought into national team youth camps are from the top clubs and clubs with developmental academies. This is not inclusive, fair, and simply goes against the culture of soccer. We need to give the game back to the communities.

There is a perception in some circles that many of the country's best athletes leave soccer for other sports. What ideas do you have for ensuring that more stick with it?

I believe this is more of a factor in men's soccer. In women's soccer, many of the best athletes leave their sports to come to the women's game. The difference is success. When you create a successful entity, people in the U.S. have a hunger to be a part of it. The opportunity to play casually amongst friends and family is important as well. I want to open fields across the United States for these kinds of games. I understand there is more to it than that, but conceptually, I would love to see soccer played more frequently on the playground.

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