Sigi Schmid, who touched the lives of hundreds of players in a record-setting coaching career, died on Christmas at the age of 65.Schmid was admitted to Los Angeles' Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in early December in need of a heart transplant. He had suffered from heart issues in his coaching career that ended in September when he left the LA Galaxy.
Schmid was born in Tuebingen, German, about 20 miles south of Stuttgart, and emigrated from Germany when he was 3 to Los Angeles, where his father, Fritz, worked for the Pabst brewery and his
mother, Doris, ran a German deli.
Schmid was very much a child of American soccer. The American Youth Soccer Organization was launched in Torrance, where he and his family moved in 1961, and he played on founder Hans Stierle's first AYSO team in 1964.
Schmid's soccer passion, though, was formed in the ethnic soccer scene that flourished in the 1960s among immigrants who fled from Europe in the aftermath of World War II and played at places like the old Jackie Robinson Stadium in West Los Angeles and Daniels Field, which is still in use in San Pedro.
Fritz Schmid, a German POW, was a player and coach but also refereed into his 70s. (After Sigi had run-ins with referees, he liked to remind you he had great respect for refs as the son of a referee and referee administrator.) He was a member of the Los Angeles Kickers, a German club formed in 1951 and U.S. Open Cup champions in 1958 and 1964, and Doris Schmid was a cook at the club.
Sigi Schmid starred at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance and earned a scholarship to UCLA. He was a midfielder and a four-year letterman for the Bruins, who finished second in the nation in 1972 (beating Arena's Cornell in the semifinals) and 1973 and third in 1974.
Schmid received a BA in economics from UCLA and an MBA from USC, but even before finishing up as an undergraduate at UCLA he started coaching, leading Bishop Montgomery to a spot in the 1975 playoffs in his first season.
He was an assistant coach at UCLA while studying for his MBA and after he became a CPA in 1978. But there were few opportunities in soccer in the late 1970s so Schmid's parents insisted that he pursue a career in accounting.
Schmid took over as UCLA head coach, replacing Steve Gay in 1980, and remained an accountant until becoming a full-time college coach in 1984. He insisted that he learned to coach as he went along, but he was certainly helped by being at the right place at the right time at UCLA, having the pick of the best talent coming up through Southern California as youth soccer took off in the 1970s and 1980s.
Long after Schmid left UCLA for MLS, his legacy was felt. All seven U.S. World Cup teams from 1990 to 2014 had at least one former Bruin -- 13 players in all -- Schmid coached. The 1994 and 2002 teams had five of Schmid's Bruins on it. Of the 20 players on the 1992 Olympic team, six were current or former UCLA players.
Schmid was an assistant on the 1994 World Cup team coached by Bora Milutinovic and served as the head coach of the 1999 and 2005 U.S. U-20 World Cup teams, taking both teams to the knockout stage. In 2005, the USA won its group, beating eventual champion Argentina, which featured a young Lionel Messi, in their opening game.
June 11 in Enschede
USA 1 Argentina 0. Goal: Barrett 39.
USA -- Westberg, Wynne, Ianni, Spector (Sturgis, 38), Freeman, Dalby, Feilhaber, Ochoa (Peterson, 60), Gaven, Adu, Barrett (Szetela, 85).
Argentina -- Ustari, Cabral, Formica, Barroso, Paletta, Gago (Cardozo, 76), Biglia, Zabaleta, Armenteros (Messi, 46), Vitti, Oberman.
Schmid, who was inducted into the National Socccer Hall of Fame in 2015, never got to coach the senior national team, but he was always around the national team program. In addition to working with the U-20s, he coached at the 1991 World University Games and 1995 Pan-American Games.
Seattle's Brian Schmetzer and his former boss. Photo: Sounders FC Communications
More recently, Schmid served as a sounding board to Jurgen Klinsmann after the German took over as head coach in 2011. Klinsmann and Schmid had a lot in common. Both were from the Stuttgart area and spoke Swabian, the local dialect, and both come from families that emphasized hard work.
Klinsmann and Schmid became close when Klinsmann studied under Schmid at the Galaxy as part of his work to get his German coaching license before he became German national team coach. Klinsmann would often turn to Schmid for advice as he out together the team that went to the 2014 World Cup.
"I think that helped because we're from the same part of Germany," says Klinsmann, "and there's a -- not necessarily a camaraderie -- but an understanding that exists and we're considered frugal and hard-working people so there were similarities there."
Sigi Schmid is survived by his wife Valerie, sons Kurt, Kyle and Eric, daughter Lacey Nicholl and several grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been released. In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the Schmid family asks to please consider a memorial gift to support the men's soccer program at UCLA, Sigi's alma mater. Donations in memory of Sigi may be directed to the attention of Emily Lerner of UCLA Athletics at 310-206-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org.