Sunil Gulati will not run for re-election as U.S. Soccer president in February, the longtime head of the federation announced Monday.
The 58-year-old, who has served as U.S. Soccer president since 2006, had been considering running for a fourth term in February's election but decided to step aside following the U.S. men's national team's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and talking about it with people in many different positions — many of whom told me I should run," Gulati told ESPN . "But in the end, I think the best thing for me personally, and for the federation, is to see someone new in the job."
Gulati acknowledged he likely would have run for re-election had the U.S. qualified for Russia. But the October defeat to Trinidad & Tobago that eliminated the Americans has cast a pall over a tenure from Gulati that included substantial growth in revenue, the 2015 Women's World Cup title, and runs to the round of 16 at the men's World Cups in 2010 and 2014.
"Look, the general perception in the soccer community versus the people who vote in elections may be different right now," Gulati said. "But the loss to Trinidad was painful, regrettable and led to a lot of strong emotions. And to be honest, I think at this point, that's overshadowed a lot of other things that are important. So fair or not, I accept that and think it's time for a new person."
Monday's news has opened up the race for federation president, with former U.S. players Eric Wynalda, Kyle Martino and Paul Caliguiri joined in the pool of candidates by attorneys Steve Gans and Mike Winograd, veteran soccer administrator Paul Lapointe, and U.S. Soccer vice president Carlos Cordeiro.
Gulati, however, won't be disappearing from the American soccer scene: He will continue to serve as a member of the FIFA Executive Committee and remains chairman of the USA-Canada-Mexico joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup, which will be awarded by FIFA in June.
"I'm going to spend a lot of time over the next six months trying to win an election — and that election is to bring the 2026 World Cup here," Gulati said.