American soccer is mourning the passing of former North American Soccer League Commissioner Phil Woosnam, who died on Friday night in Marietta, GA, aged 80 years old.
Woosnam galvanized the sport in the United States and guided the original NASL through its successful and turbulent years in the 1970s and 1980s. He passed away from complications related to prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Phil Woosnam was a true pioneer of soccer in the United States in every sense of the word and his contribution to the sport in this country is immeasurable,” said NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson. “He took soccer into unchartered waters and through his passion, carried the game on his shoulders for many years. Our thoughts are with his family.”
Woosnam played a leading role in the development of the sport in the United States, beginning in the 1960s. After a successful playing career in England with Leyton Orient, West Ham and Aston Villa, the Welshman came to the United States in 1966, and became coach of the Atlanta Chiefs in 1968, winning the inaugural NASL Coach of the Year honor. He was voted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame and won 17 international caps for Wales, scoring three goals.
That same year, Woosnam became the Head Coach of the U.S. Men's National Team as well as the Commissioner of the NASL, a role he held until 1982. During his tenure, Woosnam oversaw unprecedented growth in the game including the signing of several top international stars, expansion to several new markets that had never experienced professional soccer previously, and the securing of the first national network television contract for soccer.
Woosnam sent a message to delegates present at the NASL AGM in 2011 when he expressed his endorsement for the new league, saying: “To think that you are here to renew and continue the legacy of the NASL, and to connect past with present, is indeed a wish fulfilled for me.”
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