RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
U.S. Soccer is not in a good place. First, the U.S. men's team failed to qualify for the World Cup. Then there was the news that one of America's best young players decided to sign with Mexico's national team. So there's a lot of frustration about the direction of the sport in this country. So there's more pressure than ever on the person at the top. The U.S. Soccer Federation will elect a new leader this weekend. Longtime president Sunil Gulati took himself out of the running, and now there are several people vying for the job.
To talk more about what's going on, we reached Julie Foudy. She's a former Olympian and was captain of the U.S. women's national team. She is an analyst for ESPN. And we spoke on Skype.
JULIE FOUDY: I think it's - there's a lot of passion surrounding how players are developed in this country. There are so many kids playing in this country. Why aren't we finding the next Messi - right? - the next Neymar and those players that you see globally? And why can't we produce that in this country?
MARTIN: So there's a hunger for new leadership, clearly. As we've said, there are eight candidates. We're not going to list all of them, but I do want to note that there's a very familiar name on the list - Hope Solo, your former teammate, an Olympic goalie. She wants this job. And she actually has filed a legal complaint to the U.S. Olympic Committee accusing U.S. Soccer, accusing the very organization she wants to lead of not living up to its mandate to develop soccer in America. Is that more of what you're saying, that there just isn't a mechanism to develop the talent?
FOUDY: Well, I think Hope's complaint does have some merit in that her argument is that they've spent more time on the business side of it, rather than the soccer side. And the great problem that U.S. Soccer has right now is they're flush with cash, that they can now push back into programming. And her complain is too often it's the youth sector and the players that get overlooked. I mean, U.S. Soccer has done quite well, but it definitely needs an upgrade in staffing in terms of scouts they have in the field. I mean, there's a lot of things at play. And so I think that's why you see so many emotions around who's going to be this next president.
MARTIN: We mentioned the pipeline problem and making sure that talent pipeline is greased so you're getting the best soccer players. What else do you want to see happen with soccer in this country?
FOUDY: Well, there's obviously so many kids that are playing, but there's also so many young children that are falling through the cracks. You still see that it's a largely middle class white affluent sport. And so there's a whole Hispanic population we're not giving enough attention to with eyeballs on them. We don't have enough scouts in this country to find them.
And it's honestly - it's so expensive in so many areas. I have a 9 and an 11-year-old that I have right now going through, you know, club soccer. It's a lot of money for parents to spend and a lot of time. And so I definitely think you need to look at it and say, how can we make this more accessible for more people? And how can we find more of those players who aren't in these structured leagues but are still phenomenal players that are going off to play, as we've just seen, in Mexico.
MARTIN: Julie Foudy. She's former captain of the U.S. national women's soccer team, now an analyst for ESPN. We've been talking about the race for the election of the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Julie, thank you so much.
FOUDY: My pleasure. Thanks, Rachel.
(SOUNDBITE OF ODDISEE'S "UPTOWN CABARET")
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