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National Teams Sep 14, 2012

U.S. Women’s National Team pioneer, former MLS exec Betty D’Anjolell passes away

One of the founding mothers of the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team and a former Major League Soccer front office executive, Betty D’Anjolell, passed away on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

A native of suburban Philadelphia, D’Anjolell became heavily involved in soccer beginning in the early 1970s as girls’ soccer coach and eventual president of the Landsdowne (Pa.) Girls Club, as well as serving a large role in the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association. Helping foster an interest in the game showed by her children, D’Anjolell, along with several partners, helped create the Tri-County Girls Soccer League to provide a higher level of competition for girls’ soccer in eastern Pennsylvania.

A graduate of Landsdowne-Alden High School, D’Anjolell was active at the local and state level for the sport and was part of a trio of women that helped spearhead an initiative to help women’s soccer fight to gain recognition as a legitimate national sport. Along with eventual U.S. Olympic Committee president Marty Mankamyer and U.S. Youth Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Mavis Derflinger, D’Anjolell helped women’s soccer jostle for relevancy in the male-dominated sports landscape of the early 1980s.

The group was able to gain support and women’s soccer was accepted by the USOC for its 1985 Olympic Sports Festival in Baton Rouge, La. It was directly due to participation in that competition that a U.S. Women’s National side was invited to play in a tournament in Jesolo, Italy, in August of 1985.

The U.S. Women’s National Team was born and played its first official match on Aug. 18, 1985 – a 1-0 loss against Italy.

D’Anjolell went on to serve as the national chairperson of the U.S. Youth Soccer Association’s Girls Olympic Development Program from 1985-1989 and it was due to the success of the program that helped lead to the formation of a full-fledged U.S. Women’s National Team and the team’s appearance and victory in the first Women’s World Cup in China in 1991.

Overlapping her work as USYSA ODP chairperson, D’Anjolell also worked for Soccer USA Partners – the marketing arm of the U.S. Soccer Federation at the time – in New York as director of operations and, eventually, vice president of operations until leaving the organization to join the front office staff of D.C. United in newly created Major League Soccer.

A member of the D.C. United Hall of Tradition, D’Anjolell served as vice president of operations for D.C. United from 1995-98, the first female vice president in the league, and was awarded MLS Executive of the Year in 1997. At United, she was responsible for ticket sales, front office management, game-day operations and new business opportunities.

In 1998, D’Anjolell joined the Miami Fusion as chief operating office and interim general manager, a position she would hold until resigning the following year.

D’Anjolell, along with her husband Ron, devoted much of their extra time and effort to helping grow the game of soccer from a grassroots level in their home state of Pennsylvania and each were inducted into the Southeastern Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame in 2000.

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