Doug Hamilton, the president and general manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy, died while on a commercial airline flight Thursday evening after it left
Costa Rica, where the Galaxy had played Saprissa in a CONCACAF Champions Cup game on Wednesday.
Hamilton was accompanied on the flight by one of the Galaxy's team doctors, who unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate him as the pilot returned the TACA airlines flight to San Jose, Costa Rica.
TACA airlines spokeswoman Sofia Valverde told the Associated Press that Hamilton appeared to have symptoms similar to a heart attack.
A three-time MLS Executive of the Year, Hamilton joined the Galaxy in 2002. He had served as the Miami Fusion general manager in 2000-01 after six years at adidas America.
Hamilton was 43. He is survived by his wife, Paige, and their 5-year-old son, Aedan.
The team was not on Hamilton's flight. It had planned to stay in Costa Rica through Monday to continue training for the upcoming MLS season. But it will now return to Los Angeles Friday evening.
Hamilton graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he played on two NCAA Division III national championship teams. After graduating, he became the head coach of Greensboro College for four seasons.
The Galaxy won two MLS titles while Hamilton served the team. He was credited with increasing corporate sponsorships and boosting Galaxy attendance, which topped the league in each of the last three seasons.
REACTION: 'This team is in absolute shock'
Los Angeles coach Steve Sampson:
"His passion was the Galaxy. In retrospect, it's fitting that we won a championship for him this last year because I think he was so passionate about this team and loved every single player and the organization. I believe [Hamilton is] one of the true pioneers of the game and one that will be dearly dearly missed. I mean, this team is in absolute shock right now."
MLS Commissioner Don Garber:
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of the leaders of American soccer and a truly terrific individual. The thoughts and prayers of all of MLS, our teams, our players and our fans are with the Hamilton family. Doug will be dearly missed as his legacy of passion and dedication to the sport will always be remembered."
Timothy J. Leiweke, President of AEG, the investor-operator of the Los Angeles Galaxy:
''Soccer in America, the Los Angeles Galaxy and AEG has lost an extremely bright young man and a good friend tonight. Doug's tireless and valuable efforts have helped to create a legacy for soccer in the United States. Through the tremendous guidance and expertise he has provided to the MLS, to the players and executives in our league, to the millions of soccer fans and to every child who kicks a ball, the sport of soccer owes a great deal of gratitude to Doug. Our heartfelt thoughts go to his wife, Paige, and their son, Aedan, who have lost a tremendous husband, father and man who will truly be missed by all of us who knew him.''