Former United State Men’s National Team player Eric Wynalda made a campaign stop in Columbus on Sunday evening. Wynalda is one of the eight candidates vying to replace Sunil Gulati as the next president of U.S. Soccer.
The election will be held next month, but Wynalda is traveling around the country to promote his campaign and hear from soccer fans from all walks of life. Central Ohio is no stranger to soccer, and with the current uncertainty surrounding Columbus Crew SC, provided the backdrop for an engaging night with the presidential candidate.
Wynalda began the evening speaking about governance and the particularly unique relationship between Soccer United Marketing (SUM), Major League Soccer and the United States Soccer Federation.
Wynalda: "The reason why we’re here is the power should be with the people. The federation should understand its role and the meaning of the word 'serve.' ...Clearly by all the yellow in this room, you care." #SoccerTownHall #CrewSC— Andrew Erickson (@AEricksonCD) January 14, 2018
The subject shifted to the youth structure of U.S. Soccer.
Particularly, why players like Christian Pulisic and Jonathan Gonzalez have decided to apply their trade elsewhere. Wynalda even went so far as to calling it an “exodus” of sorts.
“The players showing some talent at the age of 17 years old are being recruited by somebody else and they’re being told, ‘Come with us.’ You know why? Because there is no light at the end of the tunnel for our young players,” Wynalda said. “We play right through the summer, we don’t engage in the transfer market. The worst thing you could do as a young player in Major League Soccer is play well. That means you’re going nowhere.”
Wynalda, on Jonathan Gonzalez: "There are thousands of Jonathan Gonzalezes out there. All we’ve got to do is find 11 guys. And we (keep) finding ways to alienate thousands of players.” #SoccerTownHall— Andrew Erickson (@AEricksonCD) January 15, 2018
Wynalda: “We have a system and a culture that allows 18 cities to feel included.” in referring to the closed MLS system. #SoccerTownHall— Patrick Guldan (@GuldanMR) January 14, 2018
Then came the main attraction, Wynalda began to touch on Save The Crew and shared his opinions with the audience. Even speaking of the Club’s late owner, Lamar Hunt.
Wynalda on Lamar Hunt: "I wish more of you would have known him. He was a good man. A great man." #SoccerTownHall— Andrew Erickson (@AEricksonCD) January 15, 2018
“The message is very clear. Relocation should not and cannot happen, simply because this is a staple of what soccer should be in our country and you don’t get to kill soccer just because you have a business plan. You don’t. That’s gonna be my message to [Precourt],” said Wynalda. “There’s an understanding that when we ask our league to comply with FIFA bylaws, everything changes for everybody, not just you. So that’s why I still, deep down in the bottom of my heart, believe that this club, is actually savable. Clubs don’t die.”
Wynalda ended the town hall with parting message to supporters. He spoke of the importance of clubs and what they mean to the communities they serve.