The U.S. Soccer Federation has named longtime sports executive Will Wilson as its next CEO and Secretary General.
Wilson, 50, replaces Dan Flynn, who retired last September after a 19-year stint as the top business executive at the USSF.
"I'm very excited to be joining U.S Soccer," said Wilson. "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 Teams, and I see significant upside in our ability to work with our Membership to grow participation levels, increase our commercial business and drive our ability to compete on the field at the highest level.
"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. I'm incredibly energized and excited about the work in front of us to continue striving to become America's preeminent sport."
Wilson is most known for having worked for the last eight years as Executive Vice President for Football at Wasserman Media Group, where he was the agent of his nephew, former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. But starting in 2008, Wilson spent four years working for MLS and its marketing arm Soccer United Marketing. His final two years he worked as the Executive Vice President of International Business & Special Events for SUM.
Wilson's relationship with MLS commissioner and USSF Board member Don Garber goes even further back, with the two having worked for NFL Europe in the late 1990s. Wilson worked in public relations for the Frankfurt Galaxy and Scottish Claymores before becoming general manager of the Claymores in 1998. He also served in executive roles with the Arena Football League, Champ Car World Series (CART). A fluent Spanish-speaker, Wilson also worked as the managing director of NFL Mexico.
"I have known Will Wilson for quite some time," Garber said in a statement. "He is highly respected throughout the sports business industry and is the right person at the right time to help guide U.S. Soccer. I have confidence that he will be a collaborative and thoughtful leader and a great partner with new U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone, as the Federation manages through a multitude of crucial issues and opportunities."
Wilson's experience with MLS and SUM will spark criticism that the USSF is turning to an insider, given the cozy relationship between those three organizations. The advantage is that he knows the business landscape of the sport in the U.S., and will be able to get up to speed quickly.
"We are thrilled Will Wilson is joining U.S. Soccer as our CEO," said Cone. "He brings an unrivaled set of experience and expertise to soccer in America. 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."
Born in London, England, Wilson graduated with a degree in English Literature from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio and he holds an MBA from the Tecnologico de Monterrey Graduate School of Business (EGADE) in Monterrey, Mexico.
Wilson arrives at a time of immense upheaval for the USSF. On March 13, Carlos Cordeiro stepped down as president following a legal filing in the equal pay lawsuit that disparaged players on the U.S. women's national team saying they "do not perform equal work requiring equal skill [and] effort" because "the overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men's national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes such as speed and strength." He has since been replaced by Cone.
The filing inflicted immense damage on the reputation of the federation, with sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Deloitte expressing their displeasure. Sources have told ESPN that Cordeiro sought to lessen the filing's impact by suggesting law firm Latham & Watkins take over the suit, and recommending the dismissal of Chief Legal Officer Lydia Wahlke. While the Board accepted bringing in the new firm, it resisted dismissing Wahlke, which hastened Cordeiro's decision to resign.
Along with Cordeiro, several long-time executives have departed in the last two years. In addition to Flynn's retirement, former president Sunil Gulati decided not to run for re-election in 2018. Jay Berhalter, who served as the Federation's Chief Commercial and Strategy Officer, and was thought to be a possible successor to Flynn, stepped down at the end of February following some scathing reviews of his leadership that were posted on the web site Glassdoor.com.
The equal pay lawsuit isn't the only case in which the USSF is currently embroiled. The USSF is currently engaged in an additional five lawsuits, including a similar equal pay lawsuit filed by former U.S. women's international Hope Solo, an anti-trust suit involving the North American Soccer League, an anti-trust lawsuit from sports promoter Relevent Sports over the sanctioning of league games in the U.S. involving foreign teams, as well as a lawsuit from the U.S. Soccer Foundation over use of the foundation's name and logo.