Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
OBITUARY: Phil Woosnam (1932-2013)
by Paul Kennedy, July 21st, 2013 6:28AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

TAGS:  obituary


Phil Woosnam, who served as the commissioner of the North American League Soccer (1969-83) and under whose guidance pro soccer took off in the United States in the 1970s, die Friday due to complications related to prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 80 in Dunwoody, Ga. Less known is the fact he served as U.S. national team coach during part of its qualifying campaign for the 1970 World Cup.

(Paul Gardner remembers Phil Woosnam.)

Woosnam, who held a university degree and taught high school physics before he turned professional at the age of 26, played for Leyton Orient, West Ham United and Aston Villa before moving to the United States to play for the Atlanta Chiefs in 1967. He served as their player-coach in 1968 and became commissioner of the NASL the following year when it contracted from 17 to five teams.

Operating out of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, where they got free rent and free phones by using an office in the visitors locker room, Clive Toye and Woosnam kept the NASL alive in 1969 thanks to the financial backing of Lamar Hunt.

While Woosnam took on the task of growing the league, Toye started the league's New York franchise, known as the Cosmos, in 1971 and later signed Pele to join the team in 1975.

By 1978, the NASL had 24 teams, and it would attract many of the world's greatest players, not only Pele but Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Gerd Mueller.

But the rapid growth was too much, and the NASL collapsed almost as quickly as it had grown. By 1982, the NASL was down to 14 teams and Woosnam was out as commissioner.

Woosnam remained involved in the game after the NASL's demise. He was close to U.S. Soccer president Werner Fricker who spearheaded the successful bid to host the 1994 World Cup, but disagreements Fricker had with FIFA led to FIFA backing Alan Rothenberg in his successful campaign to unseat Fricker in 1990.

The marketing agency former NASL marketing executive Steve Caspers and Woosnam operated was cut out of the growing soccer marketing business in the early 1990s, though they later successfully sued.

Woosnam, who was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1997, is survived by his wife, Ruth, sister, Mair, daughter, Valerie, son, David, stepson, Randy Pearson, daughter-in-law, Susan Pearson, and grandchildren Carleigh, Cole and Luke Pearson.

  1. Steven Gans
    commented on: July 21, 2013 at 7:43 a.m.
    Sad news, Paul, and thanks for this tribute. He was indeed a pioneer, and like most people connected to the sport in this country for a long time, one who experienced many ups and downs within it. Well done.
  1. Thom Meredith
    commented on: July 21, 2013 at 10:05 a.m.
    To Soccer America Readers: I knew Phil Woosnam for almost the entire 40 years I've been involved in the sport. He might be the most stubborn, toughest, smartest person I ever met in the game. Certainly one of the GIANTS of our sport in North America. And, along with folks like Clive Toye and Lamar Hunt, one of the three men who provided the necessary leadership to keep the sport alive professionally during its darkest days in the late 1960's and early 1970's. He is one of the those people forgotten by the soccer leadership of today who mistakenly believes that the game started and has grown to its current stature in North America when and because THEY got involved in it just in the past 10-15 years BUT when the true, honest accurate history of soccer is written, Phil will be known as one of its true architects, maybe the lead builder. Detractors who didn't know him will say he wasn't an architect of our sport but I submit to you as someone who was there as a 'spectator' this entire time that Phil was, for sure,the Lead Contractor on the first few floors of the soccer building from which the view from the 21th story of our sport's skyscraper is clear and bright primarily due to the strong foundation Phil Woosnam helped to build so many years ago. Thom Meredith
  1. Ted Howard
    commented on: July 21, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.
    I had to good fortune to be hired by Phil as I was finishing my MBA at Chico State in 1971 when the League was at a low but adding the Cosmos and 2 other new teams. The League office consisted of Phil, myself and a secretary -- it has all come so far in 40 years and so much of it is due to the groundwork he did. There was no grassroots soccer when he started and he and others dedicated their lives to it knowing that there was no future without a base. His work ethic and enthusiasm were contagious. He was not always easy to deal with because he demanded the same from others and others responded in kind. I feel very fortunate to have made a career in the game and it all came from working with him for 13 years. Those in the game today how a huge debt of gratitude to those founding fathers of the professional game for the foundation they laid and Phil was the leader of the movement and the catalyst.
  1. Edward Bellion
    commented on: July 22, 2013 at 7:02 p.m.
    I agree entirely with the comments of my friends Thom and Ted. As a referee in the NASL, I knew Phil as a strong proponent for referees and he often supported referees' decisions when teams and owners appealed against them. He hired three excellent Directors of Officials who insisted on high standards and raised the overall level of officiating in the USA. As a result of this, several referees who were trained in the NASL received prestigious appointments to World Cups and Olympics during the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. None of this would have been possible without Phil Woosnam and the NASL. Sincere condolences to Ruth and the family. Ed

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Daily
U.S. women: Uncapped trio picked for summer series    
Three uncapped players -- Abby Smith and Midge Purce of the Boston Breakers and Taylor Smith ...
Gold Cup: Rematch of 2015 final on tap    
Mexico and Jamaica will meet in a rematch of the 2015 Gold Cup final when they ...
MLS confirms implementation of VAR after All-Star Game    
Video review, using a fifth match official in a booth equipped with monitors that are used ...
Video Pick: Meet MLS leading scorer Nemanja Nikolic    
Chicago's Nemanja Nikolic is on pace to break the MLS single-season scoring record. In this MLS ...
Roster: U.S. U-17 boys welcomes three newcomers     
The U.S. U-17 boys national team, in the midst of preparations for the 2017 U-17 World ...
What They're Saying: Howard Webb    
"If it's used in the right way, this will be an absolutely wonderful addition to our ...
Video Pick: Godoy headed in the wrong direction    
We didn't have to venture far to find the week's best own goal as Panama's Anibal ...
USA-El Salvador: A night of bites and a twisted nipple    
The USA had already staked out a 2-0 lead over El Salvador when the game degenerated ...
MLS Wednesday: Roldan caps historic Seattle comeback    
Down 3-0 at home to D.C. United after 50 minutes, the Seattle Sounders rallied with four ...
USA-El Salvador: Three takeaways from a labored 2-0 win    
After 40 minutes of errant passes and clumsy touches, the Americans broke through in their Gold ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives