By Meg Linehan and Jacqueline Purdy
Tony DiCicco, the legendary coach of the United States women’s national soccer team, passed away Monday night at the age of 68, his family said in a statement.
“While the health challenges Tony faced were confronted head on and with eyes open, we never could have foreseen the beautiful journey that truly defined the magnificence of this man’s life,” the DiCicco family said in a statement shared on Twitter by his son, Anthony.
A statement from the DiCicco Family. pic.twitter.com/kBLKhdrWdH
— Anthony DiCicco (@DiCiccoMethod) June 20, 2017
“We are humbled to experience the sphere of impact Tony had in the world of sport and in the lives of people every day. His life will continue to be celebrated and honored by those who knew and loved him,” the statement said.
DiCicco, who first spent 1991 as the goalkeeper coach for the U.S. women’s national team, became the head coach of the team in 1994. During his tenure, he went 105-8-8, leading the team to a FIFA Women’s World Cup title at the 1999 World Cup, held in the United States, as well as an Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. His USA team finished third at his first major international tournament, the 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Sweden.
His former players remembered their coach.
“Great coach, amazing man! We were so fortunate to have him be our teacher/leader. His lessons and love will never leave us,” Mia Hamm wrote on Twitter.
“Tony was one of the finest to grace this planet. His spirit will indeed live in us all Anthony. I smile thru the tears. His impact, immense,” Julie Foudy said in a post on Twitter.
“His mark will always remain in this world,” Aly Wagner wrote.
DiCicco stepped down as coach of the national team following the 1999 World Cup. He then became the commissioner of the first women’s professional soccer league in the United States, the Women’s United Soccer Association from 2001-2003.
He returned to U.S. Soccer at the youth level in 2008 as head coach of the U-20 team, guiding the team to a title at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile.
When women’s professional soccer returned to the United States in 2009, he joined the Boston Breakers as head coach for all three WPS seasons, taking the team to the playoffs in 2010 and 2011.
— BostonBreakers (@BostonBreakers) June 20, 2017
Following the inaugural season of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2013, DiCicco once again became involved in U.S. women’s professional soccer.
During the offseason leading into the 2014 season, the Houston Dash hired DiCicco as a consultant for their first season in the NWSL. He assisted the club during their preparations for the 2014 NWSL College Draft.
“I am excited about the opportunity to consult for the Houston Dash and work with Chris Canetti and Brian Ching while they interview for a coach and build a roster,” DiCicco said at the time. “The Dash are creating an excellent situation for players to train and play and I have been very impressed with how the Houston Dynamo organization is behind the Dash playing in the NWSL.”
The NWSL plans to honor DiCicco at this weekend’s games and more details will be provided later in the week.
“We are very saddened to learn of last night’s passing of legendary women’s soccer coach Tony DiCicco,” NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy said. “A pioneer in the world of soccer, Tony will be remembered for his immense passion, his dedication to the game and his life pursuit to inspire players and people. A truly influential figure, no one will forget the impact he has had on so many people’s lives and his role in the tremendous growth of women’s soccer in the U.S. On behalf of the NWSL, we would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tony DiCicco. He will be missed by all.”
DiCicco’s impact is felt throughout the world of women’s soccer both in the United States and around the world.
“Tony DiCicco played an integral role in getting our program to where it is now. I am very appreciative of him and his contribution. Sad day,” Becky Sauerbrunn, co-captain of the U.S. women’s national team, said on Twitter.
“So incredibly sad [to] hear about the passing of Tony. He was a pioneer of the game [and] I’m thankful for all he has done on and off the pitch,” co-captain Carli Lloyd wrote.
DiCicco also spent time in the broadcast booth, working for ESPN and FOX often since 1999. He most recently was part of the broadcast team for FOX at the SheBelieves Cup.
Former Boston Breakers defender Cat Whitehill was part of a lot of those broadcasts with DiCicco, including Fox Soccer’s 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup top commentary team with J.P. Dellacamera. “He was a father figure for me during the World Cup,” Whitehill told the NWSL on Tuesday afternoon. “As a commentator, he was a friend. I enjoyed every second of working with him. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Whitehill also noted that DiCicco’s commitment to women’s soccer never wavered. “His passion came through the sport. He still wanted to be a part of every league, whether it was the WUSA, WPS, NWSL. He still had his hands in it. He wanted the game of soccer to keep growing for women. I think that says a lot about how truly amazing he was as a coach and as a mentor.”
While her time in Boston didn’t overlap during DiCicco’s tenure as head coach in the WPS days, Whitehill still spoke highly of DiCicco’s approach to coaching. “Tony is one of those that as a coach he wanted to teach you, but he also wanted you to learn how to be a strong woman, how to be a confident woman. He wanted to teach you the game of soccer, but he also wanted you to be the best version of you in every area and every aspect of your life.”
For Whitehill, Tony DiCicco’s role in the game is hard to put into a few words. “I don’t think it can be stated enough how important he was to women’s soccer,” she said.
“I think when you go back, and you look at the history books, Tony’s fingerprints are all over it. That’s his legacy as a soccer coach.”