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Two American Soccer Legends Who Never Wore A Jersey

Grahame L. Jones of the LA Times pays homage to two the greats in American soccer who died a day apart last week: Lamar Hunt, a great champion and patron of the sport for more than 30 years, and Ahmet Ertegun, the music mogul-turned soccer investor who along with his brother Nesuhi and Steve Ross helped turn the New York Cosmos into a household name worldwide. Ertegun faded from the game after the North American Soccer League folded in 1985, but he was instrumental in making the Cosmos locker room the kind of place where you could see Mick Jagger chatting up Henry Kissinger. Not so for Hunt, who was a founder of the American Football League (which later merged with the National Football League), the NASL and Major League Soccer. Even though Hunt lost nearly $20 million in the NASL, he never gave up on soccer: at his death he was owner of FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew of MLS. Among the heights of his career, Hunt says, was watching the U.S. team reach the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup. "I have no doubts that it will be a major sport in the United States," Hunt said in 2002. "I'm probably not going to live to see that day because Americans are a little afraid of getting interested in something at which they're not very good. So it depends on how quickly the U.S. can become good." Not quickly enough, for his lifetime, anyway. As Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, said last week: "There is no doubt, that the sport of soccer in America would not be where it is today without Lamar Hunt's passion . . . and unrelenting love of the game."

Read the whole story at Los Angeles Times »

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