Parlow Cone takes over at US Soccer at critical juncture

Sports
Cindy Parlow Cone

FILE – In this Dec. 6, 2019, file photo, Cindy Parlow Cone, vice president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, attends a meeting of the organization’s board of directors Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in Chicago. Carlos Cordeiro resigned as the federation’s president Thursday night, March 12, 2020, three days after the organization sparked a backlash when its legal papers in a gender discrimination lawsuit claimed the women’s national team players had less physical ability and responsibility than their male counterparts. His decision elevated former American midfielder Parlow Cone to become the first woman president in the history of the 107-year-old federation. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

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New U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone’s first challenge will be to confront the fallout over the federation’s widely condemned legal stance in the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the women’s national team.

The first woman president in the 107-year history of the governing body will also oversee the appointment of a new chief executive and early preparations for the 2026 World Cup.

A former national team midfielder who became the federation’s vice president last year, Parlow Cone took on her new role Thursday when President Carlos Cordeiro abruptly stepped down.

Cordeiro was facing a growing outcry from players, board members, supporters and sponsors over assertions made in court documents filed this week. USSF lawyers suggested the women’s team was inferior because the players had fewer responsibilities and less physical skill than male national team counterparts.

Former teammates rallied in support of Parlow Cone, who has the unenviable task of damage control.

“I have known Cindy Parlow Cone for over two decades as both a teammate and friend. She has always led with integrity and a commitment to others. I have no doubt that she will dedicate herself to making our game better for all,” Mia Hamm said on social media.

Fellow teammate Julie Foudy wrote: “I played with Cindy for many years. I know Cindy. She understands ALL the players are going through having lived it. And she is one hell of a human. Give her a chance to succeed. Please.”

Now 41, Parlow Cone scored 75 goals in 158 appearances for the U.S. from 1995 to 2006, winning the 1999 World Cup and two Olympic gold medals with the team. She retired because of post-concussion syndrome.

She was coach of the Portland Thorns during the National Women’s Soccer League’s inaugural season in 2013, leading the team to the league’s first title before stepping down to spend time with her family.

She was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2018, and was voted in as USSF vice president in 2019.

Parlow Cone will serve as president until the federation’s annual general meeting next February. An election will be held then to complete Cordeiro’s term, which runs until the regular election for a four-year term in 2022.

Parlow Cone takes on the presidency at a critical juncture. USSF is currently conducting a search for a new CEO to replace Dan Flynn, who retired last September. Brian Remedi is currently serving as chief administrative officer in addition to chief stakeholder officer.

The federation is also in the midst of early preparations for the 2026 men’s World Cup with Canada and Mexico. An expanded field of 48 teams will play in 16 cities across the three countries.

But her most pressing issue is to contain the furor over the USSF’s legal stance in documents filed Monday in federal court in Los Angeles. The documents were filed in connection to the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by women’s national team players last year.

The players say they have not been paid equally to the men’s national team and asked for more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . A trial is scheduled for May 5.

Sponsors including The Coca-Cola Co., Anheuser Busch Cos. Inc., The Procter & Gamble Co. and Volkswagen Group issued statements in support of the women’s team. MLS Commissioner Don Garber, a USSF board member, said he was “shocked and angry” over the arguments and Parlow Cone herself denounced the legal stance on Twitter.

National team players silently protested by wearing their jerseys inside out in warmups before a match against Japan on Wednesday night in Texas. The move obscured the U.S. Soccer crest but still revealed the team’s four stars for its Women’s World Cup championships.

Cordeiro apologized for the stance, saying: “I did not have the opportunity to fully review the filing in its entirety before it was submitted, and I take responsibility for not doing so. Had I done so, I would have objected to the language.” But it was too late.

In her only public statement since becoming president, Parlow Cone thanked Cordeiro for his service to soccer. Cordeiro, formerly the organization’s vice president, was elected president after Sunil Gulati resigned because the men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“The passion that has come to the surface in the past two days is what inspires me to look forward, to work hard towards mending relationships and moving the game forward for all,” she said in a statement issued by the federation.

Former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, a vocal critic of U.S. Soccer, said she hoped the change at the top leads to change within the organization.

“This blatant disrespect and sexist attitude toward the women’s team is nothing new. It didn’t start with Carlos and won’t end with his resignation,” Solo said. “It’s been in place for decades, was perpetuated under Sunil Gulati and was tolerated by so many within the organization. For meaningful change to happen, it has to be institutional. Carlos cannot just be a scapegoat for U.S. Soccer’s PR strategy.”

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