U.S. Soccer hires NFL agent William Wilson as CEO of turbulent federation
U.S. Soccer named sports agent and former MLS executive William Wilson as the federation’s CEO and secretary general Monday, filling a position vacant since Dan Flynn’s retirement in September.
Flynn had been in the position 19 years.
Wilson 52, has spent the last eight years with the powerhouse Wasserman sports agency, where he was executive vice president and co-head of the football division, which represented more than 100 NFL players. Before that he was executive vice president for international business and special events for MLS and its marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing.
“He brings an unrivaled set of experience and expertise to soccer in America,” Cindy Parlow, U.S. Soccer’s president, said in a statement. “His global perspective, background in marketing and growing sporting events and extensive experience in the sports business will be invaluable in growing soccer at all levels.
“Soccer is the world’s game, and Will is the perfect person to help us grow it to America’s game.”
When Flynn took the job as the federation’s top employee in 2000, U.S. Soccer was in the red. When he left, it had a surplus of about $150 million. But financial health notwithstanding, Wilson inherits an organization in serious disarray.
For veteran players Sacha Kljestan and Jordan Harvey, the coronavirus outbreak could mean a premature end to their careers if soccer doesn’t resume soon.
President Carlos Cordeiro resigned March 12 in the midst of a furor over language lawyers included in their defense of U.S. Soccer in the gender-discrimination lawsuit brought by members of the World Cup-champion women’s national team. In their filings, the lawyers argued there was “indisputable science” that proved 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.
That lawsuit, scheduled to go to trial in May, is one of at least five major legal challenges facing U.S. Soccer. The women’s team has won the last two Women’s World Cups while the men failed to qualify for their last world championship in 2018 for the first time in 32 years.
Adding to the dysfunction, last summer the New York Times revealed that federation employees had been using the networking website Glassdoor to anonymously post critical reviews of the organization that the paper said called U.S. Soccer a “terrible and toxic place to work.”
The U.S., along with Mexico and Canada, will play host to the 2026 World Cup, giving Wilson, who will start next Monday, little time to get things right.
LAFC general manager John Thorrington recalls sports being the escape, but with the coronavirus pandemic that escape has been eliminated.
“I’m very excited to be joining U.S. Soccer,” Wilson said. “I have always admired the federation from afar and have long felt that the U.S. Soccer crest is one of the best brands in the business. There is nothing like harnessing our nation’s support behind our women’s and men’s national team.”
Before joining MLS in 2008, Wilson worked for the Arena Football League, was managing director for NFL Mexico, oversaw the league’s business in Latin America and worked in various capacities for two teams in NFL Europe. Born in London, he holds degrees from Ohio’s Kenyon College, where he played football, and the Tecnológico de Monterrey Graduate School of Business in Mexico.
“U.S. Soccer has an amazing fan base, and our supporters are waiting for us to get things back on track both on and off the field,” he said. “I’m incredibly energized and excited about the work in front of us.”
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