Hope Solo announces surprise run for U.S. Soccer president

Hope Solo has not played for the U.S. women’s national team since her contract was terminated last year. (Getty)

The race for U.S. Soccer president added a surprising ninth candidate on Thursday night: Hope Solo.

Solo, 36, last played for the U.S. women’s national at the 2016 Olympics. After the tournament, she was suspended for six months by U.S. Soccer for calling Sweden, the Americans’ quarterfinal opponents, “cowards.” She also had her contract terminated, and has not played in the NWSL since.

The goalkeeper announced her candidacy with a long Facebook note titled Why I’m running for president of U.S. Soccer. She criticized the U.S. Soccer Federation’s conduct during a labor dispute with the women’s national team as “historical, immoral and unconscionable,” called the federation “stubborn and elitist,” and outlined four core campaign principles.

“We need passionate and intelligent soccer people leading the way at U.S Soccer,” she wrote. “The business strategy at U.S. Soccer cannot continue to be profit before progress. The heart of what USSF must represent is the development of youth soccer in America.”

Solo had a rocky relationship with the federation as a player. She was outstanding on the field, but controversial off it. She won a World Cup and two Olympic gold medals, but was suspended twice by U.S. Soccer. The post-Olympics suspension was the second. The first came in 2015. During a U.S. national team training camp, Solo’s husband, Jerramy Stevens, was reportedly pulled over at 2 a.m. and charged with DUI. Solo was in the vehicle with Stevens, and was suspended 30 days for the “incident.”

Solo was also accused of domestic violence following an altercation with her half-sister and 17-year-old nephew in 2014. Those charges were eventually dismissed, but that decision was reversed on appeal. The case is, as of the most recent reports last year, still in court.

Solo becomes the second woman to enter the race, after Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter declared her candidacy on Tuesday. Solo and Carter have joined a crowded field that includes Boston attorney Steve Gans; United Premier Soccer League northeast conference manager Paul Lapointe; former U.S. national team players Eric Wynalda, Paul Caligiuri and Kyle Martino; New York attorney Michael Winograd; and current U.S. Soccer vice president Carlos Cordeiro.

The field does not include Sunil Gulati, the incumbent, who ran unopposed in 2006, 2010 and 2014. Gulati announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election. In the wake of the U.S. men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the race appears to be wide open.

Solo, like all the other candidates, has until next Tuesday, Dec. 12, to get the three required nominations from delegates to officially join the field. According to Solo’s spokesperson, via Grant Wahl, Solo already has them.

Her announcement came out of nowhere. But, in her Facebook post, she wrote, “I have been traveling internationally learning and speaking about many of [U.S. Soccer’s] issues. I have met with foreign national soccer teams player associations and unions. I have met with Presidents and members of the United Nations to discuss leadership and the importance of sport in the world order. Through all of these experiences, I have learned that it is the responsibility of those in leadership positions who have the ability to change policy to stop giving lip service to the issues, but to instead, execute and take the actions required to affect real change.”

The election will be held at U.S. Soccer’s annual general meeting in February.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.