U.S. Soccer quickly announced a 10-game “victory tour” for
the women so people in the United States could see their new
heroes in person, not just on TV playing to win in Canada.
He wants to make sure, for instance, that people know that
Carli Lloyd, who scored three goals in the World Cup final,
plays for the Houston Dash in the women’s pro league, the
same way people know where Olympic
basketball dream-team members play when
the Olympics are done.
The main office for U.S. Soccer is far from
Columbia, in Chicago, where a CEO and
70-plus employees take care of daily details.
Gulati and his board set policy and work
on big things — professional soccer issues,
international connections, TV contracts
and the like.
“Hopefully, the future will spell further
success on the field,” he says. “The success
of the women’s national team will not last forever, but they
won a world championship, and they were the centerpiece
of the sports landscape for the better part of the summer.
They had a ticker-tape parade in New York. They were on
the ESPYs. Now, for our men’s team, we want to achieve
that level of success. That is the goal. We want them to
Gulati In the hall outside his office
at Columbia, where his teaching
specialty is economic development
and international trade.
The women’s win, Gulati feels, will have a massive trickle-down effect.
“We want to see the continued growth of the game and see
it be a part of the American fabric,” he says. “The women’s
victory is now doing that, and we want to continue to have it
do that and be part of the conversation, whether it be at the
dinner table or the water cooler. We want kids
to go to games and talk about players they want
to be like. All these are pieces of the puzzle.”
Gulati prefers to stay mum on the recent
scandals surrounding FIFA (The Fédération
Internationale de Football Association), the
organization that administrates soccer around
the world. He was recently named to FIFA’s
executive committee and hopes to bring an
American influence to future reform. He
knows, too, that there are increasing concerns
about injuries, especially concussions, among
those involved with youth soccer.
“We have an initiative and a desire to make the game
safer,” Gulati says. “When you have a sport that is played
by millions of kids, we all have the responsibility to make
that sport as safe as we can while not giving up the essential
elements of the sport. We can make things a lot safer if we
take certain precautions.”
“As much as I
love soccer, there
will always be
a part of me that
has to teach.”