Kyle Martino wants to be U.S. Soccer president, and he's acting like he already is
The player-turned-broadcaster says he has the recipe for success and isn't waiting till February to get started
There isn't a level of soccer Kyle Martino hasn't touched. From his youth soccer days, winning Gatorade Male Soccer Player of the Year at Staples High in Connecticut to starring at the University of Virginia, from his time in Major League Soccer to some appearances with the U.S. men's national team, Martino feels like he has as good of an understanding of where the game was, where it is today and most importantly, where it can be in the future.
Martino sat down with CBS Sports to talk about his candidacy, what needs to be fixed within U.S. Soccer and how he'll fix it:
What's the biggest single problem with U.S. Soccer?
Martino: The biggest problem is that the federation isn't looking at U.S. Soccer as a whole. They had prioritized the top of the soccer pyramid. The biggest problem I see is the disconnect. There are people on the ground growing this game, educating kids and making it fun, and they don't feel that the federation is servings [them]. It's sole purpose is to service its members ... We have to reestablish trust in the federation.
When guys like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore leave European clubs to come back to MLS, do you see that as a plus when it comes to their development or do you prefer them staying in Europe, in regards to how it impacts the national team?
Martino: I just did a two-day summit in Manhattan. We came up with a lot of interesting ideas, we brought up a lot of issues. It was a perfect cross-section of the soccer landscape ... I think the over-arching idea that we kept landing on, there are many different ways for a player to be developed, but there are also so many players that aren't going to make it to the top level ... We need to make sure we are focused on the entire soccer experience and build a culture ... We shouldn't be so insecure as a soccer country and say, no that's not right, you shouldn't go abroad. It's clear, other countries it is the no. 1 sport. They've had a head start ... I think it is OK to admit that there are options abroad that are better for players.
Who are you relying on for management advice and philosophies, if anybody? Are you reaching out to CEOs, business leaders you are familiar with?
Martino: The easy, lazy criticism of me in this campaign is going to be I'm not a business man. Putting on a two-day summit and running a board room of 20 people from all different backgrounds was a perfect way to demonstrate internally how I'll govern ... I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in all areas. I need to lean on people ... My father worked for IBM for 40 years ... He came in to run the first day of my summit ... I was in finance for two years, I'm part of the ownership board of Real Mallorca [of Spain]. I know how to spend and invest on an academy. I've had a lot of experience there. I'm fortunate that throughout my entire life, I've touched every tier of our soccer pyramid and have developed relationships ... I'm someone who knows how to sell the game and has done it on TV, and also someone who has strategic relationships with people who can help us grow the television presence.
If elected, what's the first thing you'll do?
Matino: The first goal I've had, and I've been starting this before I'm elected ... It's the most important thing to do, go to the association level, the state association level and say what we can we do to you. I'm going to re-establish the belief that the federation serves its members.
Traditionally, the U.S. Soccer president has selected the head coach and presented the choice to the board for approval. Now they are talking about whether there will be a different approach -- for example, will a committee select the candidate instead of the president? Do you feel like the president should have his or her pick?
Martino: Let's say I am qualified to pick a national team. Nobody should ever have the power to unilaterally pick a national team coach.
Having been a successful soccer player in MLS, having played for the national team, how has that helped you better understand U.S. Soccer as a whole and changes you want to see?
Martino: I'm the beneficiary of the entire pyramid. I think one of the big problems we have now, we don't have a pyramid where the path is up ... One of the women in meeting, someone experienced in the game, said that is less a pyramid and more like Frogger. The biggest problem is some parents don't have the finances to give their kids the opportunities. There is so much market confusion. We haven't clearly defined the path up the pyramid.
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