CLASS OF 2019: Sunil Gulati the 'Single Most Important Person in the Development of Soccer in this Country'
In the annals of the 100-plus years of U.S. Soccer Federation history, there is no one person who has had a greater impact on the growth of the soccer than Sunil Gulati.
Former U.S. Soccer President Alan Rothenberg summed it up the best: “Sunil is the single most important person in the development of soccer in this country."
First elected in 2006 and re-elected twice, he served as the steward of the Federation for 12 years and presided over a period of unprecedented growth. During his tenure, the U.S. Women’s National Team won two World Cups and the men qualified for five straight. The United States hosted consecutive Women’s World Cups and the historic and wildly successful 2016 Copa America Centenario.
Equally significant, his leadership in growing the influence and prestige of U.S. Soccer in the global soccer community will have a lasting impact. First elected to serve as a member of the powerful FIFA Executive Committee (now FIFA Council) in 2013, Gulati has positioned the United States among the decision-makers within world soccer’s governing body.
That vision reached its apex when he engineered the effort to establish a United Bid with Canada and Mexico to bring the 2026 FIFA World Cup to North America. The first of its kind approach proved successful, and the tournament, to be held seven years from now, will long serve as a huge driver of interest in the sport.
At the FIFA level, Gulati has served on the FIFA Confederations Cup Committee, the Strategic Committee, the Youth Competitions Committee, the FIFA Task Force Football 2014 and currently serves on the FIFA Ticketing Subcommittee. He was also named to the Independent Governance Committee, a group which provides recommendations for governance changes within the FIFA structure.
Arguably his most notable achievements have come in his tireless advocacy of women’s soccer in the United States and around the world. Long a champion of the effort to grow the women’s game, Gulati led the charge in establishing the National Women’s Soccer League, a competition that has eclipsed its predecessors in both longevity and viability and provides an important platform for the development of women’s players, coaches and referees.
With more than four decades of service at various levels of the game, Gulati rose through the ranks in the mid-eighties to become an integral part of the bid and the USA’s successful execution of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which remains the most successful tournament in World Cup history.
In his role as Deputy Commissioner of Major League Soccer at its inception in 1996, he was a key architect in player acquisitions, bringing home the top American stars along with impactful foreign signings. He departed in 1999 to become the President of Kraft Soccer Properties, a position he served in until 2011.
Before becoming President of the Federation, he served as U.S. Soccer’s Executive Vice President from 2000 to 2006. In the last year of that role, he led an overhaul of U.S. Soccer’s governance institutions and policies. He has held numerous other positions in U.S. Soccer, including Interim General Secretary, Managing Director of National Teams, Chairman of the International Games Committee, Chairman of the National Teams Committee and Chairman of the Technical Committee. He has served on the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors since 1995. Gulati served on the bid committee for the 1994 FIFA World Cup and Chaired the U.S. bid efforts for the 2022 World Cup.
He was also the original Managing Director of U.S. Soccer’s Project 2010 and served as Chairman of both U.S. Cup '92 and U.S. Cup ’93, two events that helped showcase U.S. Soccer’s rise and prepare the federation for the upcoming 1994 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, Gulati served on the Board of Directors of FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 1999 and 2003.
Currently, Gulati is a member of the Board of Directors for the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Gulati graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bucknell University and earned his M.A. and M. Phil. in Economics at Columbia University. He served on the Columbia Economics Faculty from 1986 to 1990 before joining the World Bank through its Young Professionals Program in 1991 and served as a country economist for the emerging country of Moldova. He is currently a Michael K. Dakolias Senior Lecturer at Columbia.
Gulati, 57, and his wife Marcela have one son, Emilio, and one daughter, Sofia. They live in New York City.
Sunil Gulati will be enshrined during the 2019 Induction Ceremony on September 21 at the National Soccer Hall of Fame, located at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
Hall of Fame Resume
- President - U.S. Soccer (2006-2018)
- Currently – Michael K. Dakolias Senior Lecturer, Columbia University
Gulati was president of the U.S. Soccer Federation from 2006 through 2018. He was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010 and 2014. Since 2013, he has been a member of the FIFA Council. He was a USSF Committee Chairman in the 1980s, Executive Vice President of the 1994 World Cup Organizing Committee, Deputy Commissioner of Major League Soccer from 1995 to 1999 and Executive Vice President of the USSF from 2000 to 2006.