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Jul 17, 2013

Former U.S. coach Phil Woosnam dies

Phil Woosnam, the former Welsh soccer star who served as the North American Soccer League's commissioner and had a brief stint as coach of the U.S. national team, has died. He was 80.

U.S. Soccer said Sunday that Woosnam died Friday in Dunwoody, Ga., of complications related to prostate cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

"We are saddened by the loss of one of the most important individuals in the history of American soccer. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "The impact that Phil Woosnam had in the growth of soccer in the United States was immense. He was a giant in the sport and his leadership, passion and knowledge will be missed."

Woosnam played for a number of pro clubs -- including English teams Aston Villa, West Ham and Leyton Orient -- during a 16-year career and earned 17 caps with the Welsh national team.

He came to the United States in 1966 at the age of 35, and became the U.S. coach in 1968, serving in the role for nine games, including four World Cup qualifiers.

He won the NASL's first coach of the year award, for the Atlanta Chiefs in 1968, before taking over as commissioner, a position he held until 1982. Under his guidance, the NASL brought in world-class players such as Pele. The league folded after the 1984 season.

Woosnam, the cousin of pro golfer Ian Woosnam, was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1997.

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