Our Game. Our Stories.
The essence of soccer is captured in the fact that it connects a wide variety of people in a dynamic way. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are profiling 20 individuals who have made a significant impact on the game of soccer or who have been impacted by soccer in a positive way. Here, we will show you the diversity of the beautiful game and how it connects everyone as one universal team...Together, We Are Soccer.
This is our game and these are our stories. Be sure to visit our site every week to see who we feature next!
Sunil Gulati has more than 30 years of experience at all levels of soccer and has played a major role in the development of U.S. Soccer since the early 1980's. He has been intimately involved in the rise of the U.S. National Teams to prominence. Gulati assumed the role of President of the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2006. Prior to stepping into his role as President, he served as U.S. Soccer's Executive Vice President from 2000 to 2006 and served as Major League Soccer’s Deputy Commissioner from its launch until 1999. Additionally, Gulati served on the Board of Directors of FIFA Women's World Cup USA 1999 and 2003. He currently represents U.S. Soccer on the CONCACAF National Team Competitions Committee and serves on the FIFA World Club Championship Committee, as well as the FIFA Task Force for Clubs. He is a member of the Board for the U.S. Soccer Foundation and National Soccer Hall of Fame.
What is your earliest memory of soccer?
Like many people, my earliest memories are as a player since that's where I started. But I was pretty young when I got involved in coaching and refereeing--and even the administrative side of the game--so there are distinct memories from those areas as well. As a spectator, I have very fond memories of watching a game from the Kop (at Liverpool's home stadium) in 1979 and of the World Cup in Mexico in 1986. And throughout all of these memories are people who have become friends for life.
Tell us about your role as President of the U.S. Soccer Federation. What is the most exciting part of your job?
The most visible and exciting part of our programs are the National Teams competing in international competition, but the fabric of the sport in this country is made up of youth players, coaches, referees, administrators and parents who share a love and passion for soccer. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with the Federation for more than 30 years in various positions and have come in contact with so many amazing people that are extremely committed to the game. As President, it has been a wonderful opportunity to continue work with all the different constituencies and help grow the game and service the needs of our membership.
How will programs like Soccer for Success impact the future of soccer in America?
One of the beautiful parts of the game is its ability to have a positive impact on our children beyond the field. In addition to learning about teamwork, commitment, and respect, kids are educated in leading a healthy lifestyle and becoming part of the soccer community. Programs like Soccer for Success help us develop good players, good fans, and most importantly, good people.
Why do you think it is so important to grow the game at the youth level?
The vast majority of people who have interaction with our sport do so at the youth level. Every weekend parks across the country are filled with kids playing soccer, parents cheering them on, coaches giving them guidance and referees enforcing the rules of the game. This is our lifeblood. Youth participation in soccer already reaches into the millions, but we still believe there is plenty of untapped potential, and we feel our constituents have a lot to offer on how we can improve.
How have you seen the game grown and change over the last 20 years?
What we have seen in the last 20 years really has been an expansion on the foundation built by the pioneers of the sport in this country, particularly from the ‘70s and ‘80s where dedicated people laid the groundwork for our success as a soccer nation. Obviously one of the key areas of growth has been Major League Soccer, which has produced some amazing accomplishments both on and off the field. Interest from sponsors, broadcast partners and media is at an all-time high, we have made progress in the Latin American and urban communities, and we have greater resources devoted to player development. It’s fitting in the 100-year Anniversary of U.S. Soccer that we can look back proudly at our achievements, and also understand that we are poised to make great leaps in the future.