ORLANDO - On the day he was elected U.S. Soccer Federation president, Carlos Cordeiro said it was a "true honor" to have won the support of the voters, and that plans to use his experience to "hit the ground running."
Cordeiro prevailed over the course of the three rounds, and used his support from the Athlete Council to be the leading vote getter throughout, and obtain 68.6 percent of the vote in the final round. In an election whose tenor was borderline toxic at times, Cordeiro is well aware of the difficulties the sport is facing, especially in the face of the failure of the U.S. men's national team to qualify for the World Cup.
"I felt that we are at an inflection point in soccer history in this country," he said. "I think we have an opportunity to really transform it into a No. 1 sport. The demographics favor that. There's a reason why the millennials identify with soccer. That's very much in our favor, but we have to do a number of things ourselves to make it happen, and to make it happen more rapidly."
Cordeiro said the "most important priority" will be winning the hosting rights to the 2026 World Cup, and to that end he will get right to work with a meeting in New York on Tuesday.
"Why are we so focused on the World Cup? Because the World Cup is going to generate hundreds of millions of dollars to us," he said.
There's also the matter of finding a new manager for the U.S. men's national team. But first, Cordeiro will need to spearhead the search for the newly created position of men's GM, as well as a similar position on the women's side. Cordeiro will spend part of next week in Chicago meeting with USSF CEO Dan Flynn.
"The board has approved both positions, and that was a decision we took a few weeks ago. It's a huge priority," he said. "We need the GM in place before we can go find a coach. It has to follow that process."
That Cordeiro prevailed was a mild surprise, as Kathy Carter was widely viewed as being in the lead heading into Saturday's vote. But Cordeiro received a critical boost of support from the Athlete Council, which voted as a bloc to give him 20 percent of the overall vote.
"I went asleep last night not knowing what that outcome was," he said. "To be fair, the U.S. Youth Soccer gave me their support late last night, and look I had been in discussions with each of the 20 members of the Athlete Council. All of them were not here today. It's hard to know exactly what happened, but I've said that winning this election was going to be about building a coalition.
"It's not about winning any one council. It was the youth, the adults, the athletes and the professionals. No one council has enough votes to get you across the line. You need a coalition of support. I think my numbers speak to that."
As for how Cordeiro managed to build that support, he spent hours in small meetings with voters. As recently as yesterday Cordeiro could be seen in the lobby of the hotel stating his case to Athlete Council members Stuart Holden and Brian Ching. The fact that Cordeiro won an election for vice president in 2016 gave him valuable knowledge on the mechanics of winning USSF elections.
"That was perhaps to my advantage, but I tried to focus on the issues, and the issues that I thought we're important to [voters]," he said. "And so I spent a lot of time, 'When you think about change, what are you talking about?' In reality it's things like growth of the membership, programming for the adults, for our national teams
"I talked a lot about equality and equal resources and our extended national teams. It's not just about our women's and our men's. We have other disciplines in soccer. So I think it's in that spirit of inclusion and collaboration, those are themes I tried to highlight and stay above some of the other discussion."
That experience proved valuable as well, and gave voters a sense of comfort that Cordeiro would make changes at a moderate pace.
"I've tried to make the case that to hit the ground running, you need a certain amount of experience, and I think a degree of familiarity with the functioning of the Federation," he said. "It's a very complex organization. It's a $110 million budget this year, lots of different things happening.
"It's not just national teams; it's a lot of stuff going on beneath the surface. And I think you need a lot of experience, and maturity and the leadership that's required to run a board. That's what I tried to convey to the membership, and I assume that's why they voted for me."