- Associated Press - Thursday, January 11, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) - Kyle Martino says that if Sunil Gulati is backing Kathy Carter to succeed him as U.S. Soccer Federation President, Gulati should state his allegiance publicly.

A former U.S. national team player and on-leave NBC analyst, Martino is among eight candidates in the Feb. 10 election. Carter, on leave from her job as president of Soccer United Marketing, has the backing of Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber. Gulati has not made a public endorsement.

Sports Illustrated reported Gulati, Garber and Carter attended a dinner last month in New York with soccer officials, and the Eastern New York State Soccer Association and the New Jersey Soccer Association later said they intend to back Carter in the vote.

“It’s just so important that if you believe in someone and they believe in Kathy, just come out and say that,” Martino said Thursday during an interview at The Associated Press. “Right now, transparency is essential to the health of our game and we can’t have these … back-of-the-restaurant conversations anymore.”

Former men’s national team players Paul Caligiuri and Eric Wynalda also are running, along with former U.S. women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo; USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro; Boston lawyer Steve Gans; and New York lawyer Michael Winograd.

After the U.S. failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup, Gulati decided not to seek a fourth four-year term. SUM represents both the USSF and MLS in marketing ventures.

“I think it’s clear now they’re going to dinners, and I think what’s upsetting the membership is not that Don Garber or Sunil Gulati would be willing to support Kathy Carter,” Martino said. “Carter is a very bright, very capable person, and I like her a lot. So I don’t blame them for think she’d make a great president. But we can’t be doing things in a clandestine way.”

Gulati will retain a role as a member of the USSF board and the FIFA executive council, and as chairman of the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup. Martino also hopes Dan Flynn stays on as the USSF secretary general.

“We need to not talk about excommunicating someone who’s been an important part of this game. We need to talk about how to work all together. And that includes Sunil, that includes Dan,” Martino said. “And, hopefully, Dan stays on as CEO so that we have some stability through this transition. He told me he plans to, which is great to hear.”

At the election in Orlando, Florida, 20 percent of the vote is from the athletes council, under U.S. law. The professional, adult and youth councils each have 25.8 percent, and the remaining 2.6 percent from other constituents such as board members, life members and fan representatives.

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