Kyle Martino failed to win the U.S. Soccer presidency last month. Martino, who notched 141 MLS caps and eight U.S. National Team caps, briefly left his post at NBC Sports to campaign this winter. On the third and final ballot, Martino finished third in the voting, with Carlos Cordeiro winning.

Cordeiro, vice president in the Sunil Gulati regime, is a U.S. Soccer insider. Martino, a soccer commentator for the past decade, ran as an outsider.

Kyle Martino

And he learned a lot about the inside.

"I realized very quickly I lacked political experience as I was getting through this process and kind of the Chicago-style politics of it was pretty shocking," Martino says. "What I realized was the system is designed to protect the incumbent and make it hard for there to be substantive change, make it hard for someone who is a visionary on the outside to come in and break up the structure that stymies progress in this country. I do believe I saw behind the curtain and worried me that there's a handful of people that are in control of the levers that not only control the election process but also the macro idea of the game in this country."

Martino made these comments on a panel with Men In Blazers host Roger Bennett at a Street Soccer USA event in New York City. The non-profit organization promotes the growth and development of soccer in the U.S. through grassroots programs.

As a player, Martino was en route to becoming a cornerstone of U.S. Soccer. He was the Gatorade National Player of the Year during his senior season at Staples High School in Connecticut, ACC Player of the Year at Virginia and MLS Rookie of the Year in 2002. Injuries limited his pro career to just six seasons -- all in MLS.

Speaking of MLS, Martino thinks U.S. Soccer needs to build more distance between itself and the domestic league.

"Major League Soccer has an enormous amount of influence on the game in this country," Martino says. "Now, some of that influence is positive, but some of that influence, it makes it difficult for there to be a division between church and state, between U.S. Soccer and between Major League Soccer. Some things are not mutually beneficial. In order to break that up, someone on the outside, quote-on-quote, has to come in and be willing to improve transparency and get rid of the Byzantine way they govern."

Martino claims roughly a dozen people actually controlled more than half the vote in a way that was "not democratic." Cordeiro positioned himself as a "change candidate" even though he served under Gulati. Martino -- perhaps being politically savvy -- insists he will give Cordeiro a chance to prove it.

How might a Martino administration have looked? Well, Martino believes change in soccer in America starts at the grassroots level. Or concrete. Or dirt. Whatever's available. His campaign slogan was "Everyone's Game" for a specific reason.

"I recognized that where we're failing and where we're missing is it's become a rich-kid field," he says. "As a kid from Westport, Connecticut, if my parents gave me the bill for my soccer education, I would probably have a heart attack. I realized that we have taken what is the greatest game on the planet -- a blue-collar sport everywhere else but this country -- and we've privatized and professionalized it into this confused market where these poor parents are doing whatever they can to find opportunity for their kids. And the cost that we're putting on these parents, it's created an atmosphere of stress of the haves and have nots, and what it does is it drives kids out of the game."

With a corruption scandal sweeping through college basketball, the concept of free education in exchange for athletics is not as clear-cut as it used to be.

American soccer fans have been questioning the NCAA for a couple decades now. While elite players around the world start in local club academies in their early teens, Americans steer toward a college route, with potential stars waiting until their 20s to go pro.

Rather than abandon the college system, Martino argues the U.S. should celebrate the NCAA as an American competitive advantage among youths.

"What we need to recognize and sometimes get rid of the chip on our shoulder if we're not the best at this sport and we struggle to embrace anything as a culture that we're not the best at," he says. "We will always be a multi-sport country. There will always be players playing multiple sports as long as they possibly can. I was a player that played high school basketball and soccer as one of the elite players in the country.

"We need to understand there is a mechanism in college sports here that doesn't exist in other countries and embrace that and enjoy the opportunity to embrace that and use youth sports to get there. But when you try to sell and privatize the game to young kids that have other options, you're just going to drive them out of soccer and into other sports and then the net that you're casting is only catching the people who can afford to be in."

Martino's advice to Cordeiro is to keep looking at the data. It's all a simple math problem. If youth soccer continues to be expensive, the talent pool can only be so big. Around the world, soccer is an easily accessible activity in open fields, dirt roads and streets. In the U.S., it is many times a luxury.

"Kids need to see this image that I saw when I grew up of looking under a car and trying to get a ball out from underneath that," Martino says. "Kids need to grow up and fall in love with the game."

While Bennett and Martino spent most of the event talking about the U.S. failing to qualify for the World Cup and accessibility in the sport, Martino did take a moment to take make one point about the divide between the men's and women's national teams.

"I spoke to many current and former players during the campaign, and I'll say they're a bit pissed," Martino says. "And they should be. They're not given the same opportunities. They're not given the same pay. The idea that we're still battling for equal pay and other nations have beat us to that.

"One of the reasons the women's national team is the Brazil, the Argentina, the Germany, the Italy of the women's game is because Title IX gives us a mechanism to focus on women's sports in this country before other countries. We were a vanguard in the space and we should have been. Now, we should be leaders once again in a social movement to make sure women get equal pay. Every time, you'll hear this, we need to win a World Cup. I'm sorry, we have won a World Cup. We have world-class players. They're playing on turf, they're on different airplanes, they're in different hotels than our men and that's unacceptable."

Cordeiro assumed office on Feb. 10, while Martino returned to NBC Sports. Although the U.S. is not going to the 2018 World Cup, the nation remains a favorite to host in 2026. Along with developing domestic players, this will be an immediate priority for the Cordeiro Administration.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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