Sunil Gulati, the first Indian-American to hold the position of president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, is among a slew of individuals nominated for induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, according to a March 19 press release. Gulati, who held that position from 2006 to 2018, decided to step down and was replaced by another Indian-American, Carlos Cordiero last year.
Gulati, 59, was nominated in the Builder Candidate category for the Hall of Fame. The other categories in the selection process include Players and Veterans. As president of USSF, Gulati was re-elected in 2008 and again in 2012, and was a strong candidate for being re-elected when he decided to step down. Today, apart from continuing as a U.S. Soccer Federation official and first-division league official, since 2013, he has been an Executive Committee member of the international football organization, FIFA. He is also a professor at Columbia University.
It is doubtful if there has been anyone serving longer than Gulati in U.S. Soccer. 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.
In an interview with this writer on Feb. 5, 2018, just five days before stepping down as president of USSF, Gulati said he considered soccer his passion from childhood, some 50-plus years. Cutting his teeth on this game since elementary school in Connecticut, the home of the mad-about-soccer University of Connecticut Huskies, and later spending time in the United Kingdom during his teens, strengthened his passion for the game.
Gulati is the Michael K. Dakolias Senior Lecturer in Economics at Columbia University where he teaches development economics, international trade and sports economics.
According to mlssoccer.com, Hall of Fame inductees are voted on by former coaches and media that covers the game. Each voter can select up to 10 candidates. Those getting at least 66.7 percent of the vote get selected and are inducted into the Hall of Fame, a ceremony slated to be held this year on Sept. 21-22 in Frisco, Texas.
In the February 2018 interview Gulati reminisced about his 12 years as head of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
His “most incredible 24 hours” were when the iconic goal was scored by Landon Donovan in the last minutes of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, June 23, when the American soccer team beat Algeria 1-0 to win the top spot in Group C, and the crowd went wild; then followed an equally if not more, memorable meeting with Nelson Mandela, Gulati recalled. , Credited with being possibly the most important man for building “The Beautiful Game” in the United States, Gulati said at that time, “I am focusing right now heavily to bring the World Cup here in 2026.”
Other signature moments in his 12 years, Gulati remembered, were when Abby Wambach scored the “almost impossible” goal for U.S. women’s soccer in 2011 against Brazil at the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals. He also remembered 1989, when America qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years.