Following Carlos Cordeiro’s abrupt resignation as U.S. Soccer’s president, vice president Cindy Parlow Cone is now in charge of righting what appears to be a sinking ship.
Cordeiro’s resignation was all but inevitable after the federation filed a legal argument in their case with the national team which claimed that the USWNT had less “skill” and “responsibility” than their male counterparts. Such comments were immediately and widely blasted for their blatant misogyny, with not only fans and players, but even corporate sponsors of U.S. Soccer speaking out. (And once you’ve alienated sponsors, whose left to defend you?)
As vice president, Parlow Cone was next in line to be Cordeiro’s successor. Now, she is the first female president in the federation’s 107-year history.
The name might ring a bell, and for good reason: Parlow Cone won three NCAA championships, as well as the Hermann Trophy, while playing for North Carolina in the late 90’s. She went on to play for the national team, and was a member of the famed 1999 World Cup winning squad. She also played in three Olympic games, as well as the 2003 World Cup.
After serving as an assistant coach at UNC, Parlow Cone became the first head coach of the Portland Thorns in 2012, leading the club to the inaugural NWSL title the following year.
A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Parlow Cone’s ascension has largely been met with praise, including a glowing review from her former team, Mia Hamm. And in her first public comments as president, Parlow Cone condemned the federation’s previous legal strategy as “offensive.”
I have known Cindy Parlow Cone for over two decades as both a teammate and friend. She has always led with integrity and a commitment to others. I have no doubt that she will dedicate herself to making our game better for all.— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) March 13, 2020
I have known Cindy Parlow Cone for over two decades as both a teammate and friend. She has always led with integrity and a commitment to others. I have no doubt that she will dedicate herself to making our game better for all.
With all that said, it’s clear that Parlow Cone has inherited a mess. As Grant Wahl puts it:
She’s an unpaid volunteer doing a job that should be paid in the high six figures, and she’s not a former Goldman Sachs partner like Cordeiro, who could afford this. She’s in charge of an organization that currently has no CEO, no vice president and no chief commercial officer. The people that have had the biggest influence on U.S. Soccer over the past two decades are now gone: ex-CEO Dan Flynn, ex-CCO Jay Berhalter and ex-president Sunil Gulati, who’s now no longer on the board (since he’s no longer the immediate past president).
Her former coach and colleague, UNC’s Anson Dorrance, offered a similar prognostic.
“Her position right now is virtually impossible if you think about it,” said Dorrance. “Because she’s not only tasked with resolving lawsuits, but also mending relationships, restoring faith not just with the U.S. women’s national team, but with members, fans, and sponsors… She has to do this and guide us through a gutted organization that requires a complete reconstruction.”
Such a reconstruction must begin at the top. Though Cordeiro’s resignation was necessary, the federation’s issues run much deeper.
For starters, the entire board of directors needs to be held accountable for not only initially approving the federation’s misogynistic legal strategy, but for failing to speak out until their sponsors went public.
Parlow Cone has already promised an immediate internal review. But even with a shift in tone, and even if additional resignations are imminent, it’s difficult to see how U.S. Soccer has any hope of recovering the public’s support given that their fundamental stance has not changed. They are, barring a last minute settlement, still going to court with their own national team in May. And while Parlow Cone has stated that her hope is to find “a positive resolution for both sides,” it’s difficult to imagine what kind of solution could appease both parties at this point.
It’s enough, at this point, to wish her good luck, as she’s certainly going to need that and more.