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Former USWNT head coach, U.S. Soccer pioneer Tony DiCicco passes away

CHICAGO (Via U.S. Soccer) – Former U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Tony DiCicco has passed away at age 68.

“Today we mourn the loss of one of the most influential coaches in U.S. Soccer history,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “Tony’s passion for the game as a coach, administrator and broadcaster was always evident and his relationships with everyone in the soccer community distinguished him as a compassionate and much-loved man. U.S. Soccer will forever be thankful to Tony for his vast contributions to the game and we extend thoughts and condolences to his family and to the many people who were positively impacted by him during what was a remarkable life.”

DiCicco, one of the most popular figures and leaders in women’s soccer history in the United States, was a true pioneer of the sport. His association with U.S. Soccer dates to the late 1980s and he was the goalkeeper coach working for Anson Dorrance on the first Women’s World Cup championship team in 1991.

In 1994, he took over from Dorrance as head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team and led the USA to a third-place finish at the 1995 Women’s World Cup in Sweden.

He then led the USA to its first Olympic gold medal for women’s soccer at the 1996 Games in Athens, Georgia, guiding the team to victory in front of massive semifinal and championship game crowds that set the stage for the hosting of the 1999 Women’s World Cup. The events changed the way women’s soccer and women’s sports were viewed in the American sporting culture.

During a magical few weeks in the summer of 1999, DiCicco deftly directed the U.S. team through a high-pressure World Cup tournament that ended in front of 90,125 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where the USA defeated China PR in a dramatic penalty kick shootout that altered the course of women’s soccer in America and the world. It is still the largest crowd ever to watch a women’s sporting event.

DiCicco was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012.

“Tony is one of the true legends of women’s soccer in the United States and the game would not be where it is today without his dedication and visionary work,” said U.S. Soccer Secretary General/CEO Dan Flynn. “We’ve lost a great man, but we all know that the impact he had at the beginning of our Women’s National Team program will be felt for generations to come.”

In 2008, DiCicco took over the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team late in the cycle and led the underdog team to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup title in Chile with a squad that featured current U.S. WNT players Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Meghan Klingenberg and Alyssa Naeher.

DiCicco is the winningest coach in U.S. Soccer history by percentage as well as the only coach to win more than 100 games, while losing just eight times during his tenure from 1994-1999.

DiCicco also played a key leadership role in the start of women’s professional soccer in the United States. In 2001, he served as Chief Operating Officer for the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), the inaugural women’s professional league which played from 2001-2003, and was the league’s Commissioner in 2002 and 2003. He coached the Boston Breakers in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) from 2009-2011.

DiCicco received a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1970, where as a goalkeeper he was the captain and the most valuable player his senior year, earning All-America honors. DiCicco also has a master’s degree in physical education from Central Connecticut State University, earned in 1978.

DiCicco played five years of professional soccer in the American Soccer League with the Connecticut Wildcats and Rhode Island Oceaneers, where he was team MVP and captain. In 1973, DiCicco toured and played for the U.S. National Team.

The Wethersfield, Conn., native is survived by Diane and four sons: Anthony, Andrew, Alex, and Nicholas.