At long last, the U.S. Soccer Federation has a new chief executive officer. On Monday, longtime sports agent Will Wilson was announced as U.S. Soccer’s new CEO and secretary general.
Wilson’s hiring ends a six-month period in which U.S. Soccer operated without a CEO and comes less than two weeks after Carlos Cordeiro resigned as federation president amid scrutiny of U.S. Soccer’s legal defense in its lawsuit with U.S. women’s national team players. Then vice president Cindy Parlow Cone stepped into the president role on March 12.
Wilson joins from the agency Wasserman Media Group. He worked in international business at MLS/SUM from 2008-2012.
“We are thrilled Will Wilson is joining U.S. Soccer as our CEO,” Parlow Cone said in a statement. “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.”
U.S. Soccer’s Board of Directors approved the hire on Sunday. Dan Flynn stepped down as CEO in September 2019. He had told U.S. Soccer he would be doing so well ahead of time, but the federation struggled to find a replacement as reports spread of internal unrest among employees regarding how they were being treated. Some of that concern, first and most prominently exposed in a New York Times article in June 2019, was aimed at Jay Berhalter, who last month stepped down from his longtime role as a commercial executive with U.S. Soccer.
Berhalter, by all reports and independent sources, had been privately tabbed to become the next CEO before employee discontent came to light. A wider external search commenced since last summer, but sources said throughout that search that many top executives didn’t want the job as the federation fights multiple lawsuits, including the equal pay battle against its own women’s national team players. That hesitance from candidates continued into 2020, with one source noting that a promising candidate withdrew their name earlier this year.
Wilson most recently served as Wasserman’s executive vice president and co-head of football for the past eight years. He helped launch Wasserman’s NFL representation by signing 2012 No. 1 pick Andrew Luck. Wasserman is a power player in the world of athlete representation, including for the majority of top U.S. men’s and women’s national team players.
Wilson also has experience with the Arena Football League, NFL Europe and NFL Mexico. The 52-year-old was born in London, graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio, and also holds and MBA from Tecnologico de Monterrey Graduate School of Business in Mexico. According to U.S. Soccer, he also speaks fluent Spanish.
“I’m very excited to be joining U.S. Soccer,” Wilson said in a statement. “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,” said Wilson. “I’m incredibly energized and excited about the work in front of us to continue striving to become America’s preeminent sport.”
Wilson will officially begin the role on March 30 and eventually relocate to Chicago, according to U.S. Soccer.
MLS commissioner Don Garber, who is on U.S. Soccer’s Board of Directors, issued the following statement:
MLS Commissioner Don Garber Statement on New U.S. Soccer CEO pic.twitter.com/eWody9LI34
— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) March 23, 2020
Garber and Wilson worked together at NFL Europe in the late 1990s.