Filling a vacancy that has lasted six months, the U.S. Soccer Federation has named Will Wilson as its new Chief Executive Officer, taking over for Dan Flynn, who stepped down last September.
Wilson, 52, joins USSF from global sports agency Wasserman, where he served as Executive Vice President and Co-Head of Football for the last eight years, according to a release from U.S. Soccer.
“We are thrilled Will Wilson is joining U.S. Soccer as our CEO,” said U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow in a release. “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.”
USSF touts Wilson’s “29 years of leadership and experience in the international and domestic sports industry at the agency, league and team levels.” Included in that experience — and something that is likely to raise some eyebrows — is Wilson’s work with MLS, and in particular Soccer United Marketing, the business arm which connects the league and USSF. According to a bio furnished by the Federation, Wilson worked for SUM from 2008-2012. Both USSF and MLS are the subject of a lawsuit from the defunct North American Soccer League, which has alleged a conspiracy between the two to harm their business.
“I’m very excited to be joining U.S Soccer,” said Wilson in a release. “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.”
Wilson’s appointment ends a period of controversy for the Federation, wherein Jay Berhalter — brother of U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter —was thought to be a favorite for the position. However, a backlash ensued when anonymous reviews from the job site Glassdoor revealed an alleged culture of mismanagement by USSF leadership, and Berhalter in particular. Berhalter recently left USSF entirely.
Wilson will step into a job having to juggle many balls, including multiple lawsuits, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and waning popularity of the USMNT, who famously failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. That failure cost the Federation untold millions of dollars in lost revenue and sponsorships.
Wilson will also likely be heavily involved in the USWNT lawsuit, which is set to go to trial on May 5. The parties have filed dueling summary judgement motions, which are set to heard by a judge on March 30. The outcome of that ruling will significantly impact a resolution in that case. As of yet, a source said the parties have not come together to attempt to settle the case. Previous attempts at mediation have failed.