By now you've probably seen stories across the internet about U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati's roundtable interview with a group of invited reporters earlier this week at U.S. Soccer's Chicago headquarters. I've been working on a full transcript of the conversation, and it has taken me a while because I've been traveling and covering other games.
It's finally ready, and I'm sorry it has taken so long. But better late than never.
A few hours before Tuesday's Copa América Centenario game between the United States and Costa Rica, Gulati and U.S. Soccer chief marketing officer Jay Berhalter - who's also the tournament's chief executive officer - sat down for an on-the-record question and answer session that lasted over an hour.
Topics ranged from Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure as men's national team coach to the finances of the Copa América Centenario to the FIFA scandal to the women's national team's fight for equal pay.
Here's who was in the room, in addition to myself. I'd encourage you to follow all of them on Twitter to see their reporting and analysis.
Steven Goff, The Washington Post
Jeff Carlisle, ESPN
Jamie Trecker, The New York Times
Matthew Futterman, The Wall Street Journal
Martin Rogers, USA Today
Ives Galarcep, Goal.com
Doug McIntyre, ESPN
Brian Straus, Sports Illustrated
Of course, I'm posting all of this well after the Americans thumped Costa Rica, 4-0, at Soldier Field - indeed, just minutes before the U.S. and Paraguay kick off at the Linc. But much of what was said is sure to linger well after the effects of any one result have subsided.
This transcript has been very lightly edited for clarity, but as little as reasonably possible.
Martin Rogers: Obviously, early in this tournament, Sunil, given what you've seen so far, what may the future be for other combined events between the two confederations?
[On Monday, ESPN reported that formal discussions have taken place for a combined tournament with teams from CONCACAF and CONMEBOL to become a regular occurrence.]
Sunil Gulati: This one is actually quite easy, and we should be very clear about this, because lots has been written. There have been no discussions about future events with U.S. Soccer, or between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL about this.
We made sure that in order to make the second part of that statement, I talked with Victor [Montagliani, CONCACAF's new president] yesterday. He's had no discussions with anyone at CONMEBOL about it. So there is nothing imminent.
No plans, no discussions have taken place. Now, having said all of that, could there be discussions about it? Sure. But nothing has happened to date.
Steven Goff: So that report that said things are coming along -
Gulati: Completely inaccurate.
Jonathan Tannenwald: Philosophically, what is your take on, given what was reported, the idea that the Copa América might be taken out of its historical pattern of the host rotating among the nations of South America?
Gulati: There's multiple issues in that. This is the "centenario" for Copa América, but if we were thinking about a combined event in the future, it wouldn't have to be a Copa América. It would be some new, created event where it might be an equal number of teams [from the two confederations], for example. Or all those things that are specific to Copa América wouldn't necessarily be in place.
So this is a specific event, the 100th anniversary, approved on the FIFA calendar. What we might talk about in the future would be for a new event.
Jamie Trecker: Right now, are you pleased with what you've seen in results from Jurgen Klinsmann? Obviously, you've had some reversals - the  Gold Cup, Confederations Cup playoff. He admitted yesterday [Monday] that results are what matters, and you've got a game [against Costa Rica] that he called a "must-win."
Do you guys still think you have the right team in place, heading into the next World Cup, with Jurgen atop it?
Gulati: I think the first part of what you said is the critical part. Results are what matter. Everyone understands that. Results of the last 18 months, overall, haven't been what we would have hoped for. Especially in the official competitions.
We had some good results last spring that were friendlies, and obviously we had some wins coming into this event. But it's the official competitions that matter the most, and we haven't been up to where we'd like to be.
So, we'll look at everything after the end of this competition. I don't get too high or too low based on one game, especially when it's in this tournament, a game against a very good team - what people, I think, have said is the favorite to win the group coming in. Or maybe we were co-favorites since we're playing at home, I don't know.
We'll wait and see how the next two games go, and hopefully some additional games after that, before we assess where things are. As is human nature, we do an assessment after every game, or after every half, or every sequence of plays, or whatever. But we try not to too up or down based on one game, or a couple of games.
Brian Straus: Jurgen has also made the point, though, that [paraphrasing Klinsmann]: "We played well - you can look at the result, and that's one metric, but look at how we played, look at the things we've accomplished, look at what's improved."
Is that important on some level? Because Jurgen, his mandate has been about so much more than final scores. It's been about style of play, it's been about development, it's been about changing the way we approach the game. Has there been progress in those areas that you've seen?
Gulati: Listen, there's short-term goals and long-term goals. The reality is, the business we're in, specifically the business coaches are in, you don't get to see through many long-term goals if you don't hit the short-term goals.
So, there are things, overall, in his role as technical director that we think we've made good advances in. But we need to win games, and we need to win games in competitive play.
In the first years, obviously, we did that. In the Gold Cup, we were very successful. The World Cup we can talk about all day, I guess. But last summer in particular, with the Gold Cup and then the reprieve we had [the Confederations Cup qualifying playoff against Mexico], we didn't get it done.
Rogers: When you spoke a minute ago about an assessment that will take place after this [tournament], is that really just like a periodical analysis, or will part of that discussion feature whether Jurgen is the right man to carry on?
Gulati: I'm not going to get into the specifics on that. Whenever we look at important competitions like this, it's thorough analysis of the operation. We're at a break point after a big competition, and before the next important competition, which is [the World Cup qualifiers] in the fall. So we look at all of those things. Not between games, but absolutely we do that.
Doug McIntyre: So this idea that the only thing that matters is World Cup qualifying is not accurate.
Gulati: Well, the answer is no, of course that's not accurate. The Gold Cup matters. Copa América matters. The Confederations Cup matters if we qualify.
Clearly, if you're ranking all those things, then obviously, playing in the World Cup is singularly the most important thing. But all those other competitions matter - not only because they get you to another competition like the Confederations Cup from the Gold Cup, but because it's an assessment of where you are.
Tannenwald: You talked a moment ago about Jurgen as the technical director, not just as the coach. Do you ever find the goals of those two jobs to be at odds with each other in any form, their having long-term and short-term visions, respectively?
Gulati: That obviously can come up if you're talking about player development and touching on players for a World Cup that might be six years from now instead of two years from now. But I think it's pretty rare that those come in conflict.
And it's not as if he's doing - especially the latter role, the technical director role on its own. That's a group effort. He's the leader of that effort, but when we're in qualifying mode or in a tournament like this, he's obviously focused 100 percent on the team.
There are a number of people that are involved in those processes, whether it's Tab [Ramos, an assistant coach], whether it's all of our other coaches, whether it's on the administration side. So I don't think that conflict comes up very much in our own thinking.
Tannenwald: In terms of when and how you might evaluate Jurgen's position, for the better or the worse, is there scenario that could lead to a splitting of the roles, to have one person be the technical director and one be the head coach?
Gulati: Sure. Yeah. We've done that in the past. Rarely, because it's been a long time since we've had somebody specific as the technical director - for a lot of different reasons. On the women's side, we have that now, in April Heinrichs and Jill [Ellis], or April and Tom [Sermanni, Ellis' predecessor], and April and Pia [Sundhage] before that.
In different countries they break it up differently. But if we thought we had a better division of labor, then we could certainly look at that, sure.
Goff: When you look over the last four, almost five years, and where you are now, is it a little disappointing to you, where you are, five years into it? Overall, in terms of style, the player pool, direction?
Gulati: I think there are areas where I would have hoped for more progress, and other areas where we've done well. And that, in many ways, reflects recent results.If you had asked me the question after the Gold Cup two and a half years ago, it would be a different answer. That's human nature.
So there's areas where I think we've done well, and areas where we haven't. But what I often say - and you guys have heard me say this - in terms of results on the field, it's not a linear path. It's not just straight.
Partly because it's not time trials. You're not always going to get better. Other teams do well, other teams have cycles where they've got special generations of players. Belgium right now is on a great run. On a downturn, the Dutch not qualifying for the Euros [this year]. And you can talk about Turkey getting to the third place game [at the 2002 World Cup] and then not qualifying for a couple. So those things happen.
We've qualified now for everything since '90. Three out of the last four [World Cups] we've been in the second round. But we haven't broken through and matched up well against the world's elite.
Rogers: Do you foresee the outcome of the U.S. presidential election having any bearing on the possibility of bidding to host the 2026 World Cup, or other major events?
Gulati: [after a distinct pause] I think the world's perception of the United States is affected by who's in the White House, yes. So it has some bearing.
Rogers: Did it have a bearing eight years ago? I remember you made some brief comments on it back then, and you felt that having President Obama in the White House would potentially be a great positive.
Gulati: I think having somebody in the White House that gives the country an outward-looking view and has a personality that is more easily accepted around the world is positive for the United States - and then more specifically, to your question, for hosting events here and for our general image from a sports perspective. But it's far beyond sports.
Rogers: So are you saying -
Gulati: I think a co-hosted World Cup with Mexico would be a little trickier if Secretary [Hillary Rodham] Clinton is not in the White House.
Rogers: So is it a barrier, or is it an impediment, or -
Straus: A wall?
[Yes, a few people in the room laughed.]
Gulati: What you are saying is, can it help you or can it hurt you, or both.
Rogers: Would you even consider it if it was President Trump? Could you see a situation where the U.S. would bid for a World Cup in any circumstances if he was in the White House?
Gulati: I think the likelihood - look, we're going to bid for a World Cup if we think we're going to be successful. I think whether we can be successful in a World Cup bid - or L.A. in an Olympic bid [to host the Summer Games in 2024] is affected by the world's view of our leaders. And not just leaders of the soccer federation.
Rogers: Russia will have hosted two major events with [Vladimir] Putin in charge. So I guess it's not always the only consideration?
Gulati: Russia and Qatar are hosting two events. So there are a lot of considerations that go into bids, for sure. And that's why I'm not willing to say we wouldn't bid in one case or we would bid in another.
And that's why, frankly, we are not going to make a decision about bidding until we know what the rules are, until we know who can bid, until we know what the size of the event is. But most critically in all that - which covers the other two - is what the rules are of bidding.
Would we love to host a World Cup in the United States in the future? The answer is of course yes. But we're only going to do so if we have a clear understanding that there's a fair set of rules, a transparent set of rules, and then we'll make a decision.
McIntyre: Would you prefer a World Cup that's just hosted in the U.S. compared to a joint bid? Do you have a thought on that?
Gulati: The current rules from the previous situation wouldn't allow a joint bid. I think, going forward, they may well allow that. [New FIFA president] Gianni Infantino obviously has come from an experience at UEFA where they have done that.
We are fully capable of hosting a World Cup in the United States. The biggest constraint on the World Cup for, I'd say, Western Europe and Japan and other countries is the number of quality stadiums. That's not an issue in the U.S. All the other issues regarding infrastructure and those things, obviously, we could do it. So we're certainly capable of hosting in the U.S., but we're not opposed to alternative scenarios.
Tannenwald: You talked about the rules of bidding, and things like that. The outsider in the public would probably bet that you have a say on those rules, given your place on the FIFA Council?
Gulati: Yeah. They would approve the set of rules. But they would be worked on primarily by FIFA's administration.
Gianni Infantino has started a consultative process that's the next 10 to 12 months, and that, I think, will be with people involved in events as well as - whether it's Transparency International or Human Rights Watch, all those sorts of groups, they will be. John Ruggie [a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government] has done a major study for FIFA. Those elements will certainly be part of it.
It's already been made clear that the technical evaluation will be part of it, so that - like the Olympic bid effort - there's a possibility someone could be excluded if they don't meet the technical standards. All of those things. Some things have already been defined. But yeah, eventually they will be voted on by the FIFA Council.
Jeff Carlisle: Speaking of Infantino, what did you make of that resolution that was passed in Mexico City that basically stripped the Audit and Compliance Committee of its independence?
Gulati: Well, I don't think it stripped the Audit and Compliance Committee of its independence, first. What it did was give the Council the ability to add or remove people for the next - what is now 11 months.
I don't know if the Council - what used to be the Executive Committee - has ever recommended someone for any of the independent committees that's been turned down by the [FIFA] Congress. The Congress [voting as a whole] isn't coming up with new names for those positions.
We had a situation in the last year where people that got themselves into trouble legally couldn't be removed, except by the Congress itself. So what Congress did is delegate that authority to the FIFA Executive Committee/Council* for the next 12 months. It's a temporary measure.
I don't see any chance - and I've seen this written - that the Ethics Commitee chairpersons or members are going to be affected by any of this. Clearly, there was an issue regarding the Audit and Compliance Committee. But in the end, [Audit and Compliance Committee chair] Domenico Scala resigned, so there wasn't any action by the Council.
[* - The Council replaced the Executive Committee as part of the package of reforms that was approved a few months ago, at the same time that Gianni Infantino was elected president.]
Carlisle: Are you sorry to see that Scala is gone?
Gulati: I think Domenico brought many, many positives to the process over the last few years. He's somebody I got to know well, and respect. And I wish the outcomes had been different. I'd say that.
Straus: Was your role [Gulati negotiated a settlement with Scala when Infantino wanted him removed] simply because you had a relationship with and knew both men, and you seemed to be the right intermediary?
Gulati: Yeah. Without getting into a lot of details - I get along, obviously, very well with Gianni, and have a lot of respect for - and I think the feeling is mutual with - Domenico. So it was a natural state of events that I tried to help them come to a resolution that was probably better than the one we ended up with.
Straus: So, like a mediator?
Gulati: We were discussing things with both guys over a couple of days, yeah.
Rogers: How do you see the situation playing forward with the women's national team? Legal battles can sometimes lead to hurt feelings on either side.
Gulati: The hurt feelings generally don't last very long. Whether it's with players who say "I will never play for this team again," or a coach [saying] "That player will never play for me again," or these collective bargaining agreements.
There are some natural adversarial parts of it, but, you know, frankly, I'm not in the middle of this with the players directly. There's lawyers on both sides. And there's three different parts to the process.
And in a way, only one of the parts is critical. One part is over, which is the federal court here, that decision [that the players can't strike while the current Memorandum of Understanding is in effect]. Which means through the end of this year, there's what we've said all along: a collective bargaining agreement that exists, and we've been living by for three and a half years, and will continue to do so.
The second part is the EEOC filing [alleging wage discrimination toward the women], which will take a long time, as I understand those processes. But the third part, which is the most critical part, the ongoing discussions between the federation and the players. I have no doubt that we'll reach an agreement at some point. I can't tell you when that will be.
Goff: Has it been kind of troublesome to you that you've reached this point, where players on the most successful team have these issues, and there's a bit of tension right now going into a big event?
Gulati: No, I don't think the tension is affecting anything we've seen. I mean, until two games ago, they were unbeaten on the year and un-tied on the year. And I think the players are completely focused on this.
They were focused when we changed coaches a couple of years ago [from Tom Sermanni to Jill Ellis]. So I think they'll be focused. They are very determined to win another gold medal. It's possible that we have a new agreement before then. We're going to do everything we can to get that done in a timely fashion.
Goff: The public perception, though, is that the women "deserve this." They seem to have won over the public, because they are successful, and there is a discrepancy of some sort that is out there. How do you take that?
Gulati: Listen, there's legal issues, there's economic issues and there's public relations issues. This discussion has been mostly in the last of those three categories. The legal issue is finished. The economic issues we're talking about with them.
I think we'll get to a resolution, but it's one that has to work and be in line with the economics as well. It can't be divorced from any economics. And that's the facts of the economics and what revenues are, or what television ratings are, or all of those things. Those are quantifiable. I don't know how to quantify the word "fairness."
Tannenwald: You talked about the possibility that this might get done before the Olympics.
Gulati: Yeah. I mean, listen. I would love to get it done sooner rather than later so we put to rest all the issues that Steve has raised, about any tension or any distraction. But I can't promise you that.
Tannenwald: I was going to say - I suppose the players might say that they would like to get it done before then, for their peace of mind. Does it matter from the Federation's perspective whether it gets done before or after the Olympics?
Gulati: Well, this is - we have an agreement through December 31. So there is no uncertainty about the next seven months, about compensation or anything else. Any uncertainty about that ended 10 days ago [when a federal judge ruled that the U.S. women cannot strike].
So what we're talking about is their compensation for next year and beyond. We would love to get that done as soon as possible, but I'm not going to predict whether that's going to happen before the Olympics.
Carlisle: Getting back to the [FIFA] Audit and Compliance Committee, you said that people got themselves into trouble and they couldn't be removed, but I guess I'm confused. If the intention of that body is to be independent from the FIFA Council, that just seems like a contradiction to me.
Gulati: So if somebody gets indicted and they're on a FIFA committee and you can't remove them, I think the independence kind of ends at that point.*
[* - If you're wondering why such a person can't be removed, Gulati's going to explain that in a moment.]
Carlisle: You're saying that's all that's -
Gulati: No, no, I'm not saying that all. But right now, you've got a new president [and] you add members. The recommendations of who's on that committee come from the FIFA Council, from the Executive Committee.
So, Domenico Scala, [ethics investigator] Cornel Borbély and Mike Garcia [who investigated FIFA corruption] and all the people that were independent members, those came from either the administration or the Council. These aren't recommended by a U.N. commission, right? They're added and subtracted by [the FIFA] Congress. My comment earlier was, the Council recommended them [and] sometimes the administration.
Straus: You mean the FIFA president, when you say "the administration"?
Gulati: Yeah. Or the General Secretary, but yeah. And the FIFA Congress has approved all of them that have ever been appointed. They haven't said, "Nope, we don't want this one, we're going to add a different one." That's my main point: that the two have been consistent, number one, and two, it's a temporary measure for 11 months.
And I would be very surprised if any of the existing three groups - and now it's more than three, it's multiple committees now at FIFA have independent members. And there's going to be additions to those.
The Governance Committee is a good example. There's only three people on that. There have to be people added over the next 12 months, otherwise you live with three. So except for that 12 months - then the power will go back to the FIFA Congress.
Tannenwald: Can I go back to something you said a moment ago, and try to get more of a layman's explanation of it? Which is, "when a person is indicted, they cannot be removed." Indicted, as in, by the U.S. goverment? Or by -
Gulati: Under the FIFA statutes, the people on some of the committees are approved, and removed, by only the FIFA Congress. So, it's not only about indictment. It could be anything else. If anything happens in the course of a year, you can't remove them, or you can't add someone new until the [next] FIFA Congress.
Tannenwald: Okay. That's what I was trying to parse out.
Gulati: And look. There was obviously some tension between the chairman of the audit and compliance committee and the president. I'm not going to make bones about that. That's absolutely the case. And I think it's pretty clear that they didn't have a working relationship.
McIntyre: Why not?
Gulati: You'd have to ask one of them.
Carlisle: So, fill us in. I know one of the issues was Infantino's compensation. Has that been resolved?
Gulati: Not that I know of.
Matthew Futterman: Do you think after last week, we're moving closer to a point where the compensation is going to be public, and there's going to be more checks and balances in place in regards to the compensation of FIFA executives, and people giving each other bonuses and things like that?
Gulati: Yes. So, a few things. One is, compensation of FIFA executives was going to be made public as part of the reforms that were approved back in February. And compensation of the ExCo and the president and the general secretary and the chairman of the finance committee were in the last document.
What wasn't in that last document were the previous years, which is what we've now found out about. So I think that's already been approved, so to speak, and you'll see all of that - including when there's resolution on the president's compensation. Absolutely, it will be public.
Futterman: And will that include bonus payments? Do you anticipate that will be all-encompassing? That there isn't going to be some -
Gulati: No, it has to be. It was last year in the statements, except there weren't those sorts of bonus payments in the fiscal year '15. It's the previous years.
Futterman: As far as we know.
Gulati: I'm assuming that when an audited financial statement gets put out by, you know, a major institution - and I understand that there have been exceptions - that it's accurate.
Tannenwald: Gianni Infantino was in Santa Clara for the tournament's opening game. Is he still in the United States?
Gulati: No. He came for the opening game, and will come for the final. That was the plan.
McIntyre: Jay, what's your take on how the tournament has gone so far?
Jay Berhalter: I think so far, we're pleased.
McIntyre: There's been some games that have done very well at the gate and some games that haven't. Is there any thought about lessons learned in terms of ticket prices and things of that nature?
Berhalter: I think we learn from every game that we do. We do a lot of games in a year. We're always looking to get better. Some of the things in a tournament of this nature, when you have a draw, sometimes you live with that.
Straus: You can sell tickets for very little, and fill the stadium, and have a great atmosphere, and make lots of revenue that way, and sell lots of beer and potato chips. Or you can sell tickets for a lot, and have fewer people buy them, and make revenue that way.
Is there a guiding philosophy that the Federation has about where it falls on that continuum?
Berhalter: I think we look at each game individually. I'm not sure that theory is true, that the lower the prices, the more you're going to sell. We look at and analyze it constantly. And we're always looking to strike the right balance.
Goff: Are you concerned about a perception issue, when, say, there's 15,000 to 18,000 people in one of these giant stadiums? Financially, you might have hit your goal, but the public, someone turning on a TV, is going to go, "Wait a minute."
Straus: "Is this a big event, do I need to be here?"
Gulati: A couple of things. We don't have a carefully worked out price elasticity of demand here. And I'm going to contradict what Jay said: I'm pretty sure that the demand curve is still downward-sloping.*
[* - Gulati is an economist, remember.]
Jay's point is that it is almost [always] the case in every game - whether it's the men's team, the women's team or this event - that the tickets that sell first are the most expensive seats in the building. It's still the case for our games.
Now, if you said to either of us: In a game, pick a big stadium, we could have 40,000 people at $20 or 20,000 people at $40, we would both in a heartbeat take 40,000 people at $20. Obvious, right? What he's really saying is that if you cut the price to $20, you probably don't get 40, you get 24. So there's always a revenue effect. That's the critical notion.
Clearly, price matters, but there seems to be this perception that we're not happy where the numbers are. No one sitting at this end of the table ever thought we were going to sell out every game. This is not the World Cup.
e've hit all of our target numbers. We've hit our revenue numbers. And we are, touch wood, going to hit our dream numbers. Our dream numbers weren't sellouts. So, our baseline projection for the event was 30,000 [fans per game]. This would be fantastic if we get to 35 average. Financially it will work, it will look great. The dream number is 40, and I think we've got a pretty good shot of getting there.
Point two, until you know who's playing where - people say, well why don't you just re-price things or move [games] to smaller stadiums. Well, because we sell tickets before the draw, and you can't move the games that might be less attractive now to MLS stadiums or 20,000-seat stadiums. So you have to take your lumps that way.
We're averaging over 40,000 people a game right now.* The first round in Chile of the last Copa América [in 2015] averaged 19,000. And I can assure you the ticket prices were different. So we're on target.
[* - That was through Monday's games; I don't know what the average is right now, but there have been some big crowds since then.]
Now, would we prefer that some of the stadiums with large seating capacity have more than 20,000 people? Of course. But the model always showed games having 20,000, or in some cases 15,000, when we knew who was in the tournament and who wasn't.
Carlisle: Jay, there have been some high-profile gaffes, like with the anthem [playing Chile's instead of Uruguay's at the Uruguay-Mexico game], and then with some of the promotional materials that have come out, misspellings. Joel Campbell was side-by-side with Clint Dempsey [on a social media promotion for Tuesday's game] and it had his name wrong.*
[* - A U.S. Soccer spokesperson said that was a mistake committed by the tournament's social media staff.]
Does that create any blowback for you from guys from CONMEBOL? I think the president of the Uruguayan FA said the tournament shouldn't have been held here.* What's your response to that?
[Valdez's specific comments, made in an interview with Uruguayan radio station Sport 890: "CONMEBOL made a mistake by holding a tournament of this scope, a cup with some of the oldest national teams in the world and in South American football here in the United States... It became obvious to me that this tournament is pretty much put together with Mexico in mind."]
Gulati: So, let's address a few of these issues, and then I'll let Jay get into detail. You read the headline of Wilmer Valdez's comment that the tournament shouldn't have been held here. The entire story is [Valdez complaining that] Mexico was favored. Nothing about the tournament, nothing about anything other than the fact that he believes the tournament is set up so that Mexico will succeed. Every quote he's got.
Okay, and, which - last I checked, neither Jay nor I played in that game. And they [Uruguay] scored two goals, and Mexico scored two - just one happened to be at the wrong end of the field. So, we're dealing with CONMEBOL. They're very happy with where things are.
Clearly, the anthem was an error. Human error. Bad mistake. Within two minutes of it happening, I apologized to Wilmer, because I was sitting next to him two minutes later. We put out a note accepting responsibility. We sent them a letter. All within a couple of hours. All of that happened before the game was over. So that was a mistake, no way around it.
Goff: I think there's a feeling out there, too, that this tournament feels a little rushed. That some things just weren't in place. And obviously, this isn't a World Cup, You don't have six years to build it all up. Do you think it needed more time?
Gulati: Look, more time is always better. Even when you have six years, you want six years and a day. Having been through that at the World Cup, I can tell you that. But it's not a World Cup. That part you're right about. That doesn't mean we didn't treat it seriously. That means it was six months, and a lot to do with multiple organizations, and a lot of things had to happen very quickly.
Whether it's the draw - which is, you know, one of the issues that FIFA's dealing with for 2022 when the World Cup [in Qatar] is moved. How do you do the draw? When does the draw happen? And if the draw is a couple of months before the World Cup, then a whole bunch of things end up being rushed, such as travel arrangement. Now, luckily, there are no changes of cities in Qatar [all the stadiums will be very close to each other]. You don't have to move.
But imagine it in the U.S. [and] if you didn't know until 30 or 60 days whether you're playing in L.A. or New York. Well, that's why the World Cup draw is held in December. And so you can sell tickets. In this case, it was not the same lead time. All those issues have been rushed to some degree. But I think all the big things, we've gotten done.
And there's one other point. There are always little glitches along the way. The speed of information technology has made those now - I don't mean the anthem, that everyone owned. But one thing on a program or whatever, and it's all over the world on social media. I can assure you there were plenty of things like that in '94, '98, '02, and so on. And it's not making excuses for it. It's just the reality.
Tannenwald: The idea of the tournament was first announced four years ago, and then the Department of Justice investigation happened last year. Everything stopped.
Then you had the meetings in Mexico City [in September of 2015, where the final deal to confirm the tournament would take place was secured]. Would you characterize those meetings in Mexico City as a complete reset and that was the zero point [to begin preparing for the tournament], or had things been done before then and maybe if you had the full four years, you wouldn't have felt so rushed?
Gulati: I don't think it was four years ago, because Jeff Webb wasn't president at the time. Maybe two and a half to three.* Then May 27th [of 2015, when the DOJ investigation first became public] changes all that.
[* - The idea for the tournament wasfirst floatedby various CONCACAF and CONMEBOL officials in 2012. It did not become a real thing until 2014.]
And I would say that for a period of six to eight months, if you had asked me - and some of you did - I wouldn't have said it on the record, but I would have said the tournament is not going to happen. And that would have been because of us. Our board, U.S. Soccer's board, wanted no part of it given everything that had happened.
So, a lot of people worked through all the issues - including, in a big way, the central issue of the flow of funds, how the money flowed in and how the money flowed out. Those discussions happened with a group that we don't normally have discussions with. It's based in Washington.
Then eventually, we got comfortable enough that we could make this happen, and were taking along new risks along those lines: financial, reputational, legal, you name it. And then things went into overdrive. But we had a plan.
One of the things that happened - and I won't get into the details - is we had certain stadiums held a year ago. And in a couple of cases, we had to release stadiums. Or in a couple cases, we ended up with some events that fell in periods that we wish they hadn't fallen, because the stadium authorities turned around and said, "We can't block 45 days when you won't tell us if you're signing a contract and coming."
Tannenwald: That was going to be the follow-up question. If my memory is right, the announcement of what the final host cities were going to be, originally, was right around the time that it all dropped.
Gulati: June of last year.
Tannenwald: So some of those things did fall apart and have to get patched back together.
Gulati: Yeah. We thought it would be a bad idea to announce venues if we weren't going to have the tournament. So you're absolutely right.
McIntyre: Originally, it was supposed to be 12 venues that you were to select, unless I'm mistaken?
Berhalter: I think we always looked to have a range between eight and 12.
McIntyre: So it wasn't a case where the delay impacted how many venues, or which venues you ended up choosing?
Gulati: Which, a little bit, because I think we had one or two fall out. And I'm not sure they would have been chosen, but. The other thing that did get affected, Doug, is which games you could play in which venues. So, you know, if Taylor Swift was coming for a concert, that means they couldn't hold [the Copa] at whatever stadium any longer. That sort of thing.
Goff: Jay, do you remember what happened with Washington? D.C. usually hosts something in big competitions and tournaments. Obviously, RFK Stadium was too small. Did FedEx Field just not bid? Or -
Berhalter: We had discussions with them, and in the end, we just thought we'd be better served not playing there.
Goff: And those kinds of decisions are based on what kinds of bids they put forth, I imagine.
Berhalter: It's a combination. It's not purely a bid process. It's a discussion.
Trecker: Sunil, from the top down, I think all of us sitting in this room think that the events with the Justice Department and FIFA have played a major role in how the sport is perceived.
Has it affected you, though, on the fan level, the sponsorship level? Or do we have just a different viewpoint because we're so involved with this on a daily basis? I don't know whether you guys feel, for example, whether the perception of the Copa América is tainted by all this stuff that's going on overseas and in Washington.
Gulati: The [CONCACAF] Gold Cup happened right after the indictments last year, and was a smashing success. This happened, obviously, at a later time period.
I said it to the NASL owners this morning who I met with, and I've said it to U.S. Soccer's board, and I've said it to the FIFA Executive Committee. The underlying asset here, which is the sport, is so strong that it has come through in a very strong way despite mismanagement in certain cases, the criminal activity in other cases.
I think the only thing that's affected Copa América in that sense is the timing issues. I think Soccer United Marketing and WME/IMG [the marketing agencies in charge of selling rights and sponsorship deals for the tournament] would say that they sold out all their sponsorships. But clearly, there wasn't enough time to get full value.And on the sponsors' side, they said, "We can't activate these programs in six months."
It certainly impacted some people's abilities to travel to the United States from abroad. But the projections that I talk about - the 30 to 35 and 40,000 [fans per game estimate], for example - aren't projections that we made in the revised model. That was our model back a year ago.
Attendance at [U.S. national team] men's and women's games: yes, we've had a few men's games that haven't been very well-attended.
I don't think there's a reaction to what happened. In the U.S. case, I think people know that we're completely outside of that.
And the sport - I was in Santa Clara last night and in Phoenix the day before. That was about the sport and two terrific games. Nothing to do with what people in suits may have done along the way.
McIntyre: Getting back to the national team, and the game tonight [Tuesday]. What is your expectation for the team?
Gulati: Well, the expectation certainly is to win tonight, and it's to win on Saturday to get through. Absolutely. A heartbreaking third place doesn't do the trick.
McIntyre: It's the same standard as a World Cup, basically: get through and then see what happens?
Gulati: Yep. I think that's it. I've said it not just about us, but the comment I made about the World Cup is: Everyone, other than maybe Brazil - and they may change their views now - the primary goal is to get through the first round, and then see what's possible.Maybe Brazil and Germany and a couple others expect to be playing in the semifinals at least. But for us, getting through, and then everything's possible.
As I said to Brian [Straus in an interview before the tournament started], I don't dream about the semifinals. And he correctly wrote what that means I do dream about. But if someone said to me, "What do you think is realistic in a given time?" My guess is Australia and New Zealand and Japan don't say, "Well, we expect to win the World Cup."
Tannenwald: There are countries in the world whose fan bases, soccer establishments and so forth focus more on style sometimes than results. The United States seems to be a country that is in all things very results-oriented.
At times - whether in the public perception or, I think, for some of us in this room when talking to him - Jurgen has looked more at style than immediate results. It has seemed that he has bristled a little bit when the subject has come to results.
Do you think that the emphasis on results in the public perception here is the right way to go about things, or should it be more toward style, and maybe results come from that?
Gulati: What countries - and I don't mean this to be confrontational - what countries would you say are more concerned about style than results?
Tannenwald: The Netherlands and Brazil are two that come to mind off the top of the head.
Gulati: Well, you think that they - I thought Carlos Alberto Parreira ended that in '94 [when he was the coach of a defensive-oriented Brazil team that won the World Cup], saying we're going to win regardless of what it takes. They want to win with style. But if you give them a choice of playing the Brazilian way or winning, they're going to take winning every time. The Dutch as well.
Now, they'd like to do it with panache. I get that part. But if they have to grind out a win, talk to Dunga [Brazil's current coach]. We know what sort of a player he was. He was a great player, but not Neymar [stylistically]. So I don't agree with the first part of that.
Look, talking about something other than results is too easy, because style is in the eye of the beholder. The U.S. in particular, where we've got hugely different climatic conditions - which we all know in certain countries influence the style. There's a reason why northern Europeans might play one way and Latins play in another way. It's not just weather.
We've got geography that's different, climate that's different, ethnicities that are very different. We're a little bit like France, maybe, there. Coming up with a unique American style is a little bit different. And we're an immigrant community.
So results top the list. Would I love to win with panache? Yeah, but if someone said to me right now - to anybody - you could win the game tonight and it won't be pretty, or you could lose 1-0 but have a lot of people ooh-ing and aah-ing about what a great performance it was, guess what? You know which one I'm taking. Everyone in this room would take it. Now, ideally, we're going to go out and play like Barcelona and win 3-0. That doesn't happen very often for anybody but Barcelona.
Rogers: Given that, is there any level of frustration after a game like the other night [the 2-0 loss to Colombia], when after seven minutes the team never looked likely to win the game, yet the coach saw nothing but positives coming out of it?
And in his mind, that performance showed that the team was capable of beating Colombia, and it showed that the U.S. was on a level with Colombia. How do you react to that, given what you've just said?
Gulati: I think it's a very difficult situation when we play against a team like Colombia that is skillful and as good as they are, and we don't win many matchups one-on-one - whether it's on paper, or looking at the clubs people play at, or transfer value, or however you want to justify it.
So I think you have to judge in that way: who you're playing against and what the performance is like. Were we ever out of that game? The answer is: Well, when it was 2-0, did I think we were going to come back and win 3-2? It was a long shot, for sure. I accept that.
But we don't think - I don't know any team that plays any team thinking they're going to lose the game. Yet we know, if you look at the odds from the oddsmakers, you know you're not supposed to win the game.
Ives Galarcep: When we met in St. Louis in November*, you talked about Jurgen's job security and [said] nobody has ironclad job security. It's been seven months. From then to now, has he strengthened his position in your mind, or has his position gotten weaker?
[* - At a meeting like this ahead of the U.S.' World Cup qualifier against St. Vincent & The Grenadines.]
Gulati: [pauses] We need to win a few games. Whether it's now or September, October and November [in upcoming World Cup qualifiers]. We have to win games. Beating Bolivia [4-0 in a Copa América Centenario warm-up friendly] is a good result. It's not as important as losing to Colombia in this tournament. That's obvious.
McIntyre: So, does that mean Jurgen's going to be the coach until the World Cup?
Gulati: We have to win games. I didn't say Jurgen has to win games. I said we have to win games.
McIntyre: Your answer was to Ives' question about Jurgen's job security.
Gulati: That hasn't changed. No one has ironclad job security. Jurgen has already said it: Coaches and players, it's about results.
McIntyre: Can you justify keeping him if you don't get out of this group?
Gulati: I don't want to get into hypotheticals like that. We're a few hours from kickoff. Let's win this game, and then go to Philadelphia.
Rogers: You've often spoken, especially at World Cup times, about the opportunity that a World Cup provides on a bigger level for the sport. Given that you don't often get to host a tournament of this magnitude, this is presumably an opportunity as well - in a different kind of way, but it's still an opportunity for the country to kind of get into soccer.
Gulati: This competition, and the reason we eventually decided to continue with it - in addition to the fact that both CONMEBOL and CONCACAF were strongly urging us to do it here - it provides so many positive things for us.
It gives us a showcase event that we're hosting. It gives us quality games for our national team - hopefully more than three. It gives us a chance to further develop human capital, people that are involved in the game, putting on events and so on.
A lot of people that were involved in MLS to start were people that worked on [the 1994] World Cup. Jay included. [U.S. Soccer Federation CEO] Dan Flynn included. [Managing director of administration] Tom King included.Some people that have the big offices here.
So you do all of those positive things with an event like this. And obviously there's an economic rationale for doing it as well. It is a big event, and there's not many that we have opportunities to host other than the World Cup. So, after the World Cup on the men's side, this is the biggest one we can host.
Rogers: To maximize it - that would make a huge [impact] the further the team goes.
Gulati: Yeah, sure. You're talking specifically about the team, absolutely. As the team does well, it's not just about ticket sales in the quarterfinals or semis or beyond. It's about the interest of the country. For sure.
And people are more in tune with that, and upset and disappointed if we don't win games and advance. Clearly, the event takes on a different fervor when you've got the home team doing well.
Goff: This is more long-term. Would you bid for the Women's World Cup in the next five to 10 years?
Gulati: Well, not in the next five. '19 [in France] is set. '23 would be hard because Canada hosted in '15. The answer is, sure. The good thing about the Women's World Cup more generally is there's now more people interested in it, because the economics work better in more countries.
As you know, early on it was Scandinavia small crowds; China with, uh, interesting crowds the first go-round. We put it on a different level [in 1999].
So the answer is yes, but also, we count - and people at FIFA who make these decisions count. What I mean by that is simply, the more events CONCACAF hosts, they say, "Okay, now we need to go to a different part of the world." Or, the more events a particular country hosts. We keep all that in mind.
Straus: What about the Club World Cup? That would get MLS into it.*
[* - The host nation of the Club World Cup gets a team from its league into the tournament.]
Gulati: You know, there's some talk about a different format, and that would be potentially more interesting.
Straus: How would the format change?
Gulati: There was some discussion a decade ago about a proper tournament during the summer with 16 teams. That would be a rather different event from the one that's held now, which is essentially the confederation champions plus two. If that's looked at, that would be, frankly, more interesting.
Straus: Do you think there's some conflict between, "We want our national team to get better" and, as you said before, looking at where the Mexican players play, looking at where the Chilean players play?
If we had our guys playing in Spain and France and Germany, wouldn't our national team be that much better?
But if these guys are playing abroad and the only place to see them is on TV, what kind of culture, what kind of local neighborhood club culture are we building in this country if fans in this country can't go see the best American players on a Saturday night in their home city.
Is there a conflict? Do we care too a lot more about our national team in this country than a lot of other developed soccer countries, where maybe it's more of the dessert maybe than the main course?
Gulati: So, a couple things. First of all, in the Mexican case, it's relatively - it's ups and downs, but the nucleus of their team is always Mexico-based. They do have four, five, six guys [in Europe], whatever it is. Chile, for a long time, has had a lot of their best players playing abroad. As has everyone in South America. They don't have the size of economy, the size of country and so on and so forth that we have in the United States.
What I've said many times, and it's still my view: We're not going to be - the example is Denmark, but i don't literally mean Denmark. By way of analogy - we're not going to be in a situation in the long term where all of our best players are playing abroad. That's not the goal of MLS or our domestic leagues. So, over time, we've got to be in a situation where our best players want to play here. Not all of them, but many of them.
And the economics for them and the level of competition make it worthwhile for them to stay. The economics because it's their livelihood, the level of competition because if it's not high enough then they should be playing where they're most challenged. That has started to happen. The league has come a long way in 20 years.
But no one in the room is going to argue - if [MLS commissioner] Don Garber were here, he wouldn't be arguing that if a player who's 23 years old has a chance to go and play in Arsenal or Bayern or Madrid, or pick another of the top 20 clubs, that he should say no to that and stay here. Don's not going to argue that. Neither would Jurgen.
The issue always becomes: If it's not that tier of club, and it's a second tier or a third tier, or a second division, or he's going to be watching most games rather than playing. That's a different question. But today, no one is going to argue that NYCFC or the Red Bulls or Seattle or Vancouver or anyone else is one of those top 10 or 20 teams in the world. By the way, we've had no players have to make that decision that I've just outlined.
Futterman: You mentioned needing to do a better job of player development. I don't mean to be cheeky, but does player development - do you feel like you can make a difference, or is it just habits with the way U.S. kids grow up and play, and don't play on their own as much?
How much - if it were a percent, like a baseball manager, the idea is he can only make a difference in five games. What percentage of a difference do you think the Federation's player development programs can really make in terms of production of players?
Gulati: When you talk about a baseball manager making a difference for five [games] - we're not talking about [a player's] Little League coach, we're not talking about his high school baseball coach, everything else. When we talk about player development, we're talking about the whole pipeline.
Messi is a well-known story, right? He didn't just turn up at 16 at Barcelona and say, "I'm ready to be the best player in the world." Identified at a very young age; yes, he grew up with whatever story it is, whether it's with socks or a watermelon or a cantaloupe or whatever. But he had some coaching pretty early on, and organized soccer pretty early on.
So this notion of street soccer, which is very important in a bunch of countries - we're not going to create that, right? I said it to the Guardian a few weeks ago. I don't know how to structure "unstructured play." So we're going to do it differently. We're not going to do it on the beaches and so forth. But I think we can influence things in a very big way.
The way I look at it, Matt, is we're the Department of Education, right? We set out a curriculum for the millions across the country. We're not running the schools, we're setting out a general curriculum: Math is good, English is good, so on and so forth.
Then you have local associations, state associations, or our Development Academy clubs that are playing the roles of either state boards of education or local boards of education. They're implementing those policies, as well as deciding specifics. And then, we're closer to the university system and graduate school, so to speak.
My son's going to college next year. If he doesn't have the basic reading and math skills, he isn't going to get into Columbia. We know that. But can they refine it, can they teach him calculus? The answer is yes. So that's the game we're in. The professional game, at that last end, is the difference.
How much better do we have to be? I'm not going to say only five percent [improvement] would beat Columbia. If you can improve the quality, the average quality of millions, then you're going to improve well above that the average quality of the elite players. So I think we can influence all that.
I agree with you 100 percent if we are talking about Jurgen, how much can he improve - 5, 10, 15 percent [like] any coach. But that's not the case for the parent, coach, all layers.
Tannenwald: Within that, before Jurgen got the job, and when he got it he talked a lot about this: Do you think the Hispanic community has been brought into the proverbial tent well enough thus far in terms of getting into the "American soccer hierarchy" and youth development, and things like that? And if not. what are things that you want to see happen?
Gulati: So, the answer is no. Have we made progress? Yes. Have we done enough? No. Do we have a lot more to do? Yes. It's not just the Hispanic community. This is a broken record for me on this one. The Hispanic community we don't need to convince to play the game. They play the game, they love the game. They're more likely watching Club América-Chivas if they're Mexican than they are Galaxy-NYCFC.
So there, the biggest challenge for us is player identification and what I call "player opportunity." Being able to see who the talented young kids are, see them in their own natural environment, and then make sure they get the opportunity. And whether that means getting into one of our camps, identified, transportation and economic challenges.
But in other minority communities, especially the African-American community, it's a different challenge. Because in both cases, we're often talking about the inner city. Not exclusively, there's plenty of stuff in Phoenix and so on that's outside. There, it's a question of liking the sport. It's they're not growing up on the sport.
Economics changes a bunch of that. But these are the same things I said 10 years ago, and other people have said long before that. So, are we making progress? Yes. Our training centers where we invite kids that aren't necessarily in our programs, just by talking to local coaches. Some of them are in programs where we do it every year. Multiple times a year, we monitor those kids.
MLS [has an] economic incentive. You look at the Galaxy youth academy; or Real Salt Lake's, which has now got an overnight [residency component]; or Philadelphia's. It completely changes the dynamics. The Development Academy, which has got a different incentive - it has scholarship assistance. So we're doing a lot of things. But are they enough? No. Clearly not.
Tannenwald: I wanted to follow up on the Club World Cup discussion earlier. There's been some talk of potentially having a Women's Club World Cup. Is that something the United States would want to get involved in helping to get off the ground, maybe to have it here?
Gulati: We're very supportive of it. Until we know, again, what the economics are, what the arrangements are. It's something I've talked a lot about with [well-known Australian FIFA Council member] Moya Dodd, and with some of our owners. So it is something we'd be interested in, sure.
Tannenwald: And looking to the 2023 Women's World Cup, the tournament has historically rotated around Asia, Europe and North America. It's been Europe and North America the last two times [Germany in 2011 and Canada in 2015]. Have you gotten any inklings of where it might go in '23, whether it might be Australia or somewhere outside of either side of the Atlantic Ocean?
Gulati: Yes, I'm just not sure if I heard it from FIFA or the country. I think there's some interest in Asia to host the event. And not anywhere that's hosted it before.