was aware that his soccer talents on the field were limited.
(“I think I played the most junior-varsity games ever at
Bucknell,” he says.) During his senior year, he turned back
to his earlier interest and became an assistant coach for the
varsity team under Craig Reynolds.
Gulati majored in economics and political science and
graduated magna cum laude, going immediately
to Columbia and, seemingly, leaving soccer
behind. Yet each season he volunteered to do
something with soccer, eventually connecting
with the national organization in the mid-
At Columbia and the World Bank, Gulati
found accommodating bosses and mentors
who allowed him to stoke his passion for
involvement with soccer. His dream to work
for the World Bank had come true, but then,
like many dreams, it had a trail leading away.
“Two things had changed along the way: I had fallen in love
with soccer, and I had fallen in love with teaching,” says Gulati.
He could have left soccer after working with the 1994 World
Cup, but individuals associated with U.S. Soccer had asked
him to stay on to help build on the enthusiasm.
He didn’t return to the World Bank. He stayed with U.S.
Soccer and helped start Major League Soccer in 1996, then
spent much of the next few years getting it through its birth
pangs. In 2003, Columbia invited him back to teach full time.
“It is a position which allows me to do what I want and love
to do in the soccer world,” Gulati says. “And I focus on what
I like to do in the academic world, which is teaching.”
Gulati says he most loves teaching Principles of Economics,
an introductory course for those without a background in the
field. Some professors just go through the motions when it
comes to introductory lecture courses. But that’s not Gulati’s
approach. While the subject matter may stay similar each
year, his students are the catalysts of change, he says.
So what does she think of long-term success this time? Kuss says
there will be a significant impact on all women’s soccer players,
regardless of age, as there was 16 years ago.
”The greatest impact is certainly with the young players [youth
through high school],” Kuss says. “That’s what happened in ’99.
Division I players can see what an international-level player looks
like, technically and tactically. It is a great reminder for them that it
And what can coaches learn, particularly a first-time head coach
like Kuss? “I really followed the decisions of U.S. coach Jill Ellis,” she
says. “She was incredibly flexible with her lineups, which allowed
the team to play differently. It was fascinating to follow the coach’s
decisions and then see it all work out.” — William Bowman
“The analogy may be when people ask someone in the
theater, ‘How can you do the same play 212 times?’ They say
that it is never the same, that the audience is different every
day,” Gulati explains. “Watching students learn something
for the first time and being able to guide them through that,
and the interaction we have, is enjoyable and rewarding.”
He also teaches a seminar in sports economics
— one of the most popular in his department.
A former sports editor for the Columbia
Spectator, the student newspaper, wrote a piece
about waiting 13 hours in line with a few other
students just to register for the course.
The student got into the class, then was so
impressed that he wrote another story praising
Gulati’s dedication to the subject and his
students, suggesting that anyone, even someone
who isn’t a sports fan, should take the course.
“Now you know why, as much as I love
soccer, there will always be a part of me that has to teach,”
The frenzy last year surrounding the U.S. men’s team, which played well but did not win the World Cup, combined with the women’s World Cup win has not
made Gulati coast. It gives him energy to do more. These
are good steps, he says, but they are just steps in a long climb.
It no longer seems Herculean, though. Now that the green
light is on, Gulati hopes to guide soccer in America toward
He points to Major League Soccer, which averaged 20,000
fans per game this summer — not National Football League
numbers, but attendance is no longer a struggle. The women’s
professional league is three years old and, to be sure, not yet
on solid footing, but Gulati is pushing owners to capitalize
on the name recognition the World Cup players have now.
Women’s soccer head
coach Kelly Kuss
“I had fallen in
love with soccer,
and I had fallen
in love with