RIP: Coaching great Sigi Schmid, an American soccer original with strong German roots

Sigi Schmid and wife Valerie after MLS Cup 2008 victory with Columbus Crew: Photo: Andy Mead/YCJ

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.

A statement was issued by the family on Wednesday:

“Our family is deeply saddened by his passing and is taking this time to grieve the loss of a tremendous husband, father, leader and mentor. We also recognize how much Sigi meant to so many people across the U.S. Soccer landscape and around the world at different levels of the game. That community meant a great deal to him as well. While we mourn his loss, we appreciate privacy during this challenging time, and will not be issuing further statements."
Schmid won three NCAA Division I men's titles at UCLA (1985, 1990 and 1997), leaving the Bruins after the 1998 season with a 322-63-33 record over 19 seasons and an .810 winning percentage that is the sixth-best in NCAA Division I history.

He won MLS titles with the Galaxy (2002) and Columbus Crew (2008) and is the all-time winningest coach in MLS with a 240-183-125 regular-season record over 19 seasons. His 11 titles while coaching the Galaxy, Crew and Seattle Sounders are tied with Bruce Arena for the most titles by an MLS coach.

Sigi Schmid's MLS titles:
MLS Cup (2): LA Galaxy (2002), Columbus (2008).
Supporters' Shield (3): LA Galaxy (2002), Columbus (2008), Seattle (2014).
U.S. Open Cup (5): LA Galaxy (2001), Seattle (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014).
Concacaf Champions Cup (1):LA Galaxy (2000).

Siegfried 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

7 comments about "RIP: Coaching great Sigi Schmid, an American soccer original with strong German roots".
  1. Wooden Ships, December 27, 2018 at 8:33 a.m.

    R.I.P. Sigi and thank you.

  2. Bob Ashpole, December 27, 2018 at 11:51 a.m.

    My condolances to his family and his many friends.

  3. John Soares, December 27, 2018 at 3:18 p.m.

    Good man, good coach...thank you.

  4. frank schoon, December 27, 2018 at 3:51 p.m.

    It is always sad to hear about one of those who has contributed a lot to soccer, here, and it makes it even more meaningful because he belonged to our community we all belong to that loves this game so much....

  5. stewart hayes, December 27, 2018 at 5:01 p.m.

    We competed against each other way back in 1974 at the All-Cal soccer tournament final.  Sigi and his team won.  RIP Sigi.  

  6. James Madison, December 27, 2018 at 6:23 p.m.

    I don't remember the particular year---1978, 79 or 80---but I was privileged to be a fallow candidate with Sigi at US Soccer Coaching School at Squaw Valley.  He earned his A license; I didn't, but I learned he was a good player, an astute student and a great guy. 

  7. stewart hayes replied, December 27, 2018 at 7:20 p.m.

    James ... July 29-August 4 1979.  Well I guess we crossed paths there too but I had forgotten.  We were candidates together and we graduated together. 

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications