Don Garber denies lobbying Kathy Carter to run for USSF presidency
TORONTO -- MLS commissioner Don Garber said that SUM president Kathy Carter has the support of MLS in her bid to become U.S. Soccer Federation president, but he denied reports that he and outgoing USSF president Sunil Gulati pressed her to run.
Carter, 47, declared her candidacy earlier this week, less than 24 hours after Gulati announced he would not seek re-election for another term. Garber lauded her credentials, which include working for the 1994 World Cup, MLS and Anschutz Entertainment Group.
"Kathy in my mind, is one of the top executives in the business, and one of the most experienced soccer people in the business," he said in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC.
"She happens to be a woman, and for us to have the opportunity for us to have a woman lead our federation, to be one of the few [national governing body] presidents, and the few federation presidents in the world, I think it says something about where our sport is."
But Garber insisted that the decision to run was one that Carter arrived at on her own. Carter had previously told SI.com the same.
"This idea that either Sunil or I put her up to it, is just ridiculous," he said. "Why would I possibly not want to have Kathy continue to run a company that has been doing incredibly well here and around the world?
"I think she's smart, I think she's incredibly experienced, she's one of the few candidates that has played at all levels, as a youth player, as a collegiate player, as an adult. She knows the business backwards and forwards."
Garber stated that Carter is taking a leave of absence from her job at SUM, the marketing arm of MLS, and will not receive a paycheck while she runs. He added that her responsibilities would be handled by "a handful of people that have been working for Kathy for a number of years", and they will report to MLS Business Ventures president and managing director Gary Stevenson.
In terms of support, Garber said that MLS would nominate Carter for the position, but that is where the league's support would end.
"Clearly MLS is going to support her and we will nominate her," he said. "But she's not going to be able to get the support of the [state associations] or the support of the athletes or the support of the other pro divisions without earning it.
"That narrative is something that she's going to have to do on her own without the strength of MLS behind her. It's in her best interests to do that on her own. She's got to earn the trust and respect of everybody in the federation."
Garber also praised Gulati, who has been the USSF president for nearly 12 years. Gulati made the decision to step down in the wake of the failure of the U.S. men's national team to qualify for the World Cup.
"I think Sunil went through a very emotional process to come to the decision to not run," he said. "I think he's been unfairly blamed for the men not qualifying, and not given enough credit for gold medals, and World Cup championships with the women, for thriving professional leagues, not just MLS but certainly the USL below us, the NWSL which he singlehandedly launched and then helped get to be more viable.
"The commercial success of the federation and the overall growth of the sport, the supporter culture he's done with the American Outlaws, all those things that I think when somebody steps away from 12 years, Sunil should be applauded for and should be revered for."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.