Asked directly why he wasn't stepping aside now, Gulati was blunt in his reply.
"Because of where the sport is now, and the role I played in it. And the role I think I can play going forward," he said. "The sport is in a very, very different place than it was 10 years ago or 30 years ago, when I first got involved."
Gulati, 58, is a member of FIFA's executive council and is leading a delicate three-nation effort that would have the U.S., Mexico and Canada play host to the 2026 World Cup. That bid process won't be completed until March, a month after U.S. Soccer's presidential election.
Gulati said the U.S. will play two friendlies next month, and an interim coach will be chosen for those games in the next 10 days. A broader search for a permanent coach also will begin soon.
Among the names that have been linked to the U.S. job are Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio, a former MLS coach; Gerardo "Tato" Martino, a former Argentine national team coach currently with Atlanta United; and former U.S. international Tab Ramos, the technical director of U.S. Soccer's youth program and the U-20 national team coach.
Ramos also is likely to be considered for the role of technical director of the senior national team.
Arena, 66, who already has been inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, left the Galaxy for a second stint with the national team last November, tasked with rescuing a qualifying campaign that had gotten off to an 0-2 start under former coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
And he almost pulled it off. Entering the final match day Tuesday, the U.S. needed only a draw in Trinidad -- or for either Honduras or Panama to lose -- to advance to the World Cup or a playoff with Australia, where a final tournament berth would be at stake. Instead, the U.S. lost, Honduras rallied to beat Mexico and Panama downed Costa Rica.
Arena lost just two of 18 games this year and won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July. But both losses came in World Cup qualifiers, to Costa Rica last month in New Jersey and in Trinidad last Tuesday.
Arena led the Galaxy to eight straight playoff berths and three MLS titles as the team's coach and general manager between 2008 and 2016. And though the Galaxy figures to undergo a major overhaul of its own this winter after a disastrous season, president Chris Klein said Friday the team hasn't considered asking Arena back.
"We have a coach," Klein said.
A U.S. Soccer spokesman said Arena's national team assistants, among them five former Galaxy coaches, remain under contract.
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