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Soccer

U.S. Soccer president resigns amid uproar over gender discrimination suit

Carlos Cordeiro, president of the United States Soccer Federation, has resigned his post.
Carlos Cordeiro, president of the United States Soccer Federation, has resigned his post.
(Rebecca Blackwell / Associated Press)

Carlos Cordeiro, who successfully spearheaded a complicated three-country bid to bring the World Cup back to North America in 2026, resigned as president of the U.S. Soccer Federation late Thursday after failing to quell a furor over arguments made in legal filings for a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by the world champion women’s national team.

In the documents released Monday, lawyers for U.S. Soccer argued that “indisputable science” proved that the women players were inferior to men and that playing for the men’s team required a “higher level of skill” and “more responsibility” than playing for the women’s team.

The U.S. women have won the last two Women’s World Cup tournaments while the men failed to qualify for their most recent tournament.

Cordeiro, 64, announced his resignation on Twitter, stepping down hours after several federation board members issued extraordinary rebukes of the wording used in the legal filings. He will be replaced by federation vice president Cindy Parlow Cone, 41, who won a World Cup and two Olympic gold medals playing for the women’s national team. She is the first woman to lead U.S. Soccer.

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In his resignation letter, Cordeiro wrote that “the arguments and language contained in this week’s legal filing caused great offense and pain, especially to our extraordinary Women’s National Team players who deserve better. It was unacceptable and inexcusable.”

“It has become clear to me,” he wrote “that what is best right now is a new direction.”

Cordeiro also had issued an apology Wednesday, but that did little to dampen the criticism of major federation sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Procter & Gamble and Volkswagen. On Thursday the criticism continued with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and other members of the federation’s board of directors calling the words offensive and unacceptable.

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Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the women’s team, welcomed Cordeiro’s resignation but said much work needs to be done to reform U.S. Soccer.

“While it is gratifying that there has been such a deafening outcry against USSF’s blatant misogyny, the sexist culture and policies overseen by Carlos Cordeiro have been approved for years by the board of directors of USSF,” she wrote in a statement. “This institution must change and support and pay women players equally.”

As president Cone will inherit an organization in disarray. The lawsuit brought by 28 members of the women’s team seeks $67 million in back pay, charging that U.S. Soccer violated the Equal Pay Act by giving women less money than players on the men’s team for essentially the same job. The federation has claimed that the men’s and women’s team agreed to different collective bargaining agreements with the women’s CBA including guaranteed salaries and benefits the men do not receive.

Spain’s top soccer league closed Thursday for a minimum of two weeks because of the spread of the coronavirus. Premier League games could be in jeopardy too.

The case is scheduled to go before a jury in Los Angeles on May 5. It is one of at least five major legal challenges U.S. Soccer is facing, among them an antitrust claim from soccer promoter Relevent Sports. The federation is also operating without a CEO or chief commercial officer following the retirement of Dan Flynn and the resignation of Jay Berhalter.

Cordeiro, a former Goldman Sachs partner and federation vice president, was elected in 2018 to succeed Sunil Gulati. Gulati served as president for 12 years but chose not to run for a fourth term following the disastrous qualifying campaign that saw the U.S. miss the World Cup that year for the first time in 32 years.

The U.S. Soccer Federation apologized for claiming in court documents that women players have lesser responsibilities and physical abilities than men.
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