She’s Got the Hardest Job in Soccer. Can She Keep Winning?

A former World Cup winner, Cindy Parlow Cone is now working to help America realize its global soccer ambitions. Her legacy may be defined by a few games.

A meeting of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the governing body for world soccer, is an impressive professional gathering of “older men wearing ties,” as Gijs de Jong, who oversees the Royal Netherlands Football Association, describes it. The head of Mexico’s football federation is a former television executive who ran sports at Univision for a decade. Greece’s federation is led by the legal-and-political adviser to a former prime minister. The chairman of the Swedish Football Association, Fredrik Reinfeldt, actually is a former prime minister. The president of England’s Football Association is the Prince of Wales.

Cindy Parlow Cone, the first female president in the 110-year history of the United States Soccer Federation, wears shorts to her day job. Cone, who coaches and supervises youth teams in North Carolina, is the first president who played the sport at an elite international level and, as far as anyone can tell, the first with no experience in business, politics or anything else outside soccer. Most meetings she convenes involve a bunch of teenage girls sitting in a semicircle. Unlike most federation heads, especially those in countries that take their ambitions in the sport seriously, Cone is paid no salary, a vestige of the early days of U.S. Soccer that the rank-and-file membership annually refuses to amend. (As of January, Cone will receive a $150,000 yearly stipend as a board member of Concacaf, which oversees soccer in North America.)

One afternoon this spring, Cone took time out from dealing with the fallout from a long-running scandal at U.S. Soccer — it involved the families of the U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter and one of his players — to hold tryouts for 10- and 11-year-old girls at a field in Chapel Hill. Checking in players at a folding table, Cone greeted each by name. “Kaydyn, correct?” she said after one stepped up, waist-high to her mother. Kaydyn nodded gravely. Cone smiled. The mother smiled. After a bit more banter, Kaydyn smiled. “It’s a lot of pressure on the kids and their families,” Cone said. “We do what we can to make it fun.”

On the sideline shortly afterward, Cone moved like an athlete, her stride rangy and slightly pigeon-toed. “Check out the number of women coaches here,” she told me, counting off five of the seven who were working with the girls. “People tell me they don’t exist.” The next morning, she would fly to Chicago on federation business. For the moment, she was handing out practice jerseys.

Cone never had an ambition to become U.S. Soccer’s president. Her predecessor, Carlos Cordeiro, resigned under pressure in March 2020 while struggling to manage a dispute with the U.S. women’s national team. At the time, the organization was in shambles. Its chief executive, hired to run the daily business, had retired. The chief commercial officer had quit. U.S. Soccer was being sued in federal court by players on the U.S. women’s team. It was also being sued by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, an organization focused on expanding access to the sport that had partnered with the federation for a quarter-century. And within a week, the pandemic shut down the world.

Cordeiro, who had been a partner at Goldman Sachs, slotted in seamlessly among his international colleagues. Cone hardly seemed suited for the position. But the parlous state of U.S. Soccer was a condition that boardroom expertise couldn’t necessarily repair. “Her lack of business thoughts and ideals in that time of chaos might have been to her benefit,” says Mike Cullina, who runs a national organization that sanctions youth and adult clubs and also sits on the federation board. “She wasn’t thinking, ‘This is how we did it here.’” After inheriting the job from Cordeiro — she was in the largely ceremonial role of vice president — Cone says she “got freaked out for a little bit.” Then she created a de facto advisory board by contacting everyone she knew who might be able to help: former players, fathers of girls she had coached, friends who ran businesses outside soccer. “She recognized that U.S. Soccer was going through an almost existential crisis,” says one of those advisers, Don Garber, who is the Major League Soccer commissioner and also a board member.

‘If the women don’t win the World Cup, that will be a black eye for her, let’s be honest.’

In the months that followed, Cone compiled a daunting record of accomplishments. Most impressive, perhaps, was the settlement of the debilitating lawsuit filed against the federation by its women’s team, which resulted in equal compensation for male and female players. Along the way, she repaired some of the decades-long fractures between the organization’s numerous interest groups. She also helped arrange for the Club World Cup, a newly expanded tournament for 32 men’s professional teams, to debut in the United States in 2025. Last year, she was elected to her own four-year term. The idea of a former player running a major sport in America no longer seems so audacious. “Soccer looks a lot different today than it did when she took over,” says Kyle Martino, who played in M.L.S. and ran against Cordeiro and others in 2018. “And Cindy deserves the credit.”



Reddit MMA Community Moderator Fostering Engagement and Discussion in the World of Mixed Martial trades

In the digital age, the realm of sports audience has evolved beyond traditional forms of engagement. Online communities have come the virtual arenas where...

Photography Studio Rental Ottawa: Capturing Moments and Creativity

Are you a photography enthusiast in Ottawa looking to take your skills to the next level? Or perhaps you're a professional photographer seeking the...

Prix Pictet shortlist 2023: Human – in pictures

Prix Pictet has announced the 12 photographers shortlisted by the independent jury for the 10th cycle of the award. This year’s theme, Human, offered...

OnePlus 12 Shows Off Its First Ever Periscope Zoom Camera in Leaked CAD Renders

The OnePlus 12 is nowhere close to launching just yet, but we already have a set of detailed CAD renders that show off its design. The...

The Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden (Germany) burnt down two days after the bombing of the city on 13 February 1945. In...

The idea became reality: On 30 October 2005 the church was consecreted – with more than 100.000 people outside joining the 1.700 in the...
error: Content is protected !!