U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting 2024 Preview
The U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting is set to kick off this weekend in Dallas, Texas. While the AGM serves as the Federation’s annual governance meeting, the event is much more – a gathering of representatives from across the American soccer ecosystem to exchange ideas and support the important work being done to grow the game nationwide.
All 114 organization members – including state associations, national associations, professional leagues, disabled service organizations and more – will descend upon Dallas for a weekend full of collaboration, learning and planning for the most exciting era in the history of American soccer.
FIRST BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING OF 2024
The first U.S. Soccer Board of Directors Meeting of 2024 will take place tomorrow with a public session from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. CT. The Board will review progress around U.S. Soccer’s strategic pillars: Grow the Game, Foster Best Playing Environments, Develop Winning Teams, Grow the Soccer Economy to Fuel Reinvestment, and Create a World-Class Organization. There will also be updates on safeguarding initiatives, the launch of the USA and Mexico’s joint bid for the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and the continued developments on the new National Training Center.
ACCELERATED INTIATIVES: STRATEGIC PRIORTIES FOR THE UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITIES TO COME
Since U.S. Soccer launched its strategic vision last September, the Federation identified a number of accelerated initiatives to drive immediate impact. These priorities include: World Cup 2026 legacy, the Safe Soccer clearance program, growing the number of referees, democratizing soccer knowledge, a unified sporting strategy, ecosystem partnerships and the development of a National Training Center.
During the AGM, members will have an opportunity to meet with the U.S. Soccer leadership staff spearheading these accelerated initiatives to provide important, meaningful feedback on these goals from U.S. Soccer membership’s point of view.
THE MAIN EVENT: NATIONAL COUNCIL MEETING
The National Council is U.S. Soccer’s governing body and is made up of representatives from across the American soccer landscape, primarily composed of the Athletes’ Council, Youth Council, Adult Council, Professional Council plus other delegates like the Fan Council, the Board of Directors, life members and more.
This year’s National Council Meeting will take place on Saturday, Feb. 10 and is set for several important decisions. The agenda includes voting for Vice President, several amended bylaws and policies, approving new organization members, granting Life Membership, approving the Federation’s budget and more.
VICE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
This year’s election for Vice President features two candidates: Nathán Goldberg Crenier and Dr. Pete Zopfi. Each candidate will have the opportunity to address the membership during the National Council, and then the assembly will vote. With only two candidates, a simple majority is necessary for a candidate to win the election.
The Vice President will begin his two-year term following the conclusion of Saturday’s National Council Meeting. For more information on the Vice Presidential election, click here.
WELCOME ABOARD: NEW MEMBERS
Two new organizations are up for U.S. Soccer membership this weekend: Special Olympics of North America and the Girls’ Academy.
Special Olympics of North America provides opportunities in sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, granting them a chance to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. Special Olympics North America had over 36,000 participants in soccer activities last year, marking a potentially massive addition to the number of players in U.S. Soccer’s disabled service organizations.
In what has become a global movement since its founding in 1968, Special Olympics’ mission is to create a better world by fostering acceptance and inclusion of all people through the power of sports. Over five million athletes are supported by the organization worldwide each year, plus one million coaches in more than 170 countries.
The Girls’ Academy is a national girls’ soccer league that operates in more than 30 states and the organization aims to be a leading youth development platform for the best female soccer players in the United States, cultivating an environment that empowers each player to reach their best potential as an athlete and human being. GA players take an active role in shaping the league with the GA Advisory Panel – a group of more than 1,200 athletes that suggests ways to improve the league, organizes charitable initiatives, engage in sponsor opportunities and more.
Founded in 2020, the league now includes more than 13,000 players at 94 member clubs across the country.
FOR A LIFETIME OF SERVICE: LIFE MEMBERS
Life Membership is the highest honor that the National Council can bestow upon an individual, honoring decades of dedicated service to the growth of the soccer in the United States. This year, two individuals are up for Life Membership- North Carolina soccer icon Robert Kepner and New York-based Italian-American soccer legend Sal Rapaglia.
After playing college soccer the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kepner launched a lifetime of service to the game in the Tar Heel State. Working to build a foundation for soccer in the state, he founded the Central Carolina Youth Soccer Club in the 1970s, was president of the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association from 1986-2001 and president of the North Carolina Adult Soccer Association from 1994-2002 and 2010-2016. With the Federation, he served as Chairman of the Credentials Committee from 2010-2019.
Rapaglia immigrated to the U.S. at age 15 and then leapt into the American soccer landscape, playing for the famed Brooklyn Italians Soccer Club and then coaching several clubs in the Italian-American Soccer League, eventually becoming president of the organization. He has served as president of the Eastern New York State Soccer Association for 44 years and was awarded U.S. Soccer’s prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award in 2006.
BYLAWS & POLICIES UP FOR VOTE
U.S. Soccer is governed by Bylaws and Policies adopted by a Board of Directors and the National Council. Each year, members have the ability to propose amendments to these Bylaws and Policies.
Life Member Nomination Procedure
Currently, Life Membership must be recommended by an organization member. The proposed change would allow any voting member of the National Council to recommend an individual for Life Membership, including the Board of Directors, other Life Members and the Athletes’ Council.
Stipend for U.S. Soccer President
The U.S. Soccer President is currently an unpaid position. The proposed change would create an annual stipend for the role of $150,000 with a reduction to $75,000 if selected to another position within soccer as a direct consequence of their role as President.
Review of Membership Applications by Nominating & Governance Committee
This change would codify that the review of new membership applications is the responsibility of the Board of Directors’ Nominating and Governance Committee. The Committee is also responsible for the process of nominating candidates for elected office within the Federation and determining the eligibility of candidates.
Alignment with USOPC on Jurisdiction for Arbitration
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has selected a new arbitration body to hear sports disputes that arise under the Olympic and Paralympic movement. This change aligns U.S. Soccer with that change as required the USOPC and the Sports Act.
Fees for Professional League Members That Register Amateur Players
In addition to league and team fees already paid by professional leagues, this amendment would add a $1 fee per adult or youth amateur player registered by a professional league.
U.S. Open Cup Administrative Changes*
The changes to Open Cup policies simplify and eliminates a number of items in the competition handbook that were found to be redundant or no longer practical. The changes would see deadlines for new teams aligned with U.S. Soccer’s Pro League sanctioning timeline as well as including match play and venue requirements into the competition handbook from now on. There’s also a change to allow players who participated in the early fall rounds of the Open Cup to play with a pro team in the spring if they sign a pro contract.
Add Disabilities to List of Characteristics Where Discrimination is Prohibited*
U.S. Soccer policy states that membership is open to all organizations and individuals in the game without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or national origin. This amendment would add “disabilities” to that list.
*Already approved by Board of Directors
FEDERATION’S HIGHEST HONOR: WERNER FRICKER BUILDER AWARD
The Werner Fricker Builder Award is the highest honor that can be bestowed by U.S. Soccer and is given to an individual or group who dedicate at least 20 years of service to the sport, working to establish a lasting legacy in the history and structure of soccer in the United States. First awarded in 2002, the award recognizes those who have developed programs that will outlast their own involvement in the sport.
After nearly 50 years of service to AYSO, Burton Haimes was named this year’s Werner Fricker Builder Award winner. A long-time member of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors, he served on the AYSO Board of Directors for 30 years, including seven as President and 12 as Board Chairman. During his tenure, Haimes oversaw the development and growth of a nationwide, community-based youth soccer organization that has served millions of children and their families.
YEAR TWO WINNERS FOR GAME CHANGERS AND LEADERSHIP AWARDS
After their establishment in 2023, two new prestigious Federation award winners will be recognized for the second time at the AGM. The Kim Crabbe Game Changers Award was established by Game Changers United – U.S. Soccer’s external Advisory Council focused on advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) across all areas of American soccer – and is given to a member of the soccer community who has made a lasting and innovative impact in the areas of DEIB in a creative way while fostering long-term sustainability for the future of soccer.
Former U.S. Women’s Youth National Team/professional player Esmeralda Negron earned the second annual Kim Crabbe Game Changers Award for her establishment of ata football, a free digital platform which brings together premium live and curated women’s football content and connects it to fans and players across all levels of the game from broadcast distribution to direct engagement. The platform makes the women’s game accessible to fans around the world from the grassroots to the professional level.
The Carla Overbeck Leadership Award is an honor given to an individual who demonstrates a unique ability to lead and guide others and who contributes to the success of an initiative that benefits those outside their own organization and places emphasis on collaboration within and among leadership.
Joslynn Bigelow won this year’s Carla Overbeck Leadership Award for her impactful work in the United States’ broad landscape of Disability soccer with TOPSoccer- an adaptive soccer program for athletes with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities. She serves as a TOPSoccer coach in her home state of Oregon, is the director for two local TOPSoccer programs and has been named the Oregon Youth Soccer Association (OYSA) TOPSoccer Coach of the Year. Bigelow also currently serves as OYSA TOPSoccer Chair plus is an assistant coach for CP Soccer and head coach of the Down Syndrome Sports of America Futsal National Team.