Sepp Blatter's reign as FIFA president is officially over. Now, acquaint yourself with his replacement: Gianni Infantino.
Infantino isn't quite a household name, particularly in the United States. But he entered the elections as one of the front-runners and came out endorsed by U.S. Soccer, whose president Sunil Gulati said of Infantino's hire: "This is a good day for the sport."
Maybe that's just Gulati buttering up the new FIFA boss, or maybe he's right and FIFA is about to turn over a new leaf. There are a lot of questions right now. Let's try to answer a few.
Why Gianni Infantino?
Infantino was seen as a front-runner to win just based on endorsements from countries before the election. He wasn't the United States' first pick -- Prince Ali got that backing in the first round, although America voted for Infantino in the second and final round of voting -- but his prominent role in European soccer was a great asset.
Of course, there are a lot of political implications to be parsed out of any FIFA election. But the organization voted knowing it needed a strong face to represent global soccer, and it wanted to set itself apart from the days with Blatter in charge. Infantino brings a freshness and a stated commitment to reform. He said all the right things in campaigning for the position. Whether he follows through is another matter.
What does his resume look like?
Infantino spent seven years working as the No. 2 executive in UEFA. During that time, UEFA's revenues increased by 300 percent, and certain reform measures helped create a financially fair playing field. He also expanded European championships, which is relevant to his goals as a leader of FIFA.
Will Infantino fix FIFA's corruption problems?
That remains to be seen. A cynical view of things would argue that it's not up to him. And, to some degree, it's true: Changing the organization's culture will take a commitment from all members, not just Infantino. But he can set the tone and help usher in that new mindset.
Shortly after winning the election, Infantino talked about a desire to bring transparency to the organization. That would be a great first step: FIFA operates behind a veil of secrecy, which is why it was able to fraudulently move around hundreds of millions of dollars spread out over decades. Transparency will open the door to holding the organization, and its members, more accountable.
The big concern about Infantino's leadership is his connections. He's often been referred to as the sidekick to Michel Platini, the former UEFA president who is currently serving a suspension from FIFA alongside Blatter. Will he follow in the footsteps of his partner/mentor, or will he strike out on his own? The Platini relationship is one to closely monitor.
What are Infantino's plans for FIFA?
The biggest issues related to cleaning up after the organization's recent scandals. On the ethics side, Infantino can take steps by supporting the organization's ethics committee and improving transparency. On the business side, he can work with sponsors to meet their expectations for reform and provide assurances that FIFA is building back from its dark days.
But Infantino also has been plans for the World Cup, namely, expansion. He would like to grow the tournament from 32 to 40 teams, which presents a huge revenue opportunity for the organization if done well. And, naturally, the 2026 World Cup bids will be watched with extreme closeness. Infantino will be under pressure to shepherd a positive result.
Is today a good day for the future of soccer?
It's a good day to a degree, but ultimately there are many remaining questions. If Infantino proves a strong leader that steers FIFA out of its corrupt habits, all while continuing to build its business and brand, then it's a home run. If ethics problems persist, it will wind up feeling like a continuation of long-held problems -- and today's election will feel like a missed opportunity.