Tony DiCicco, one of the most popular figures and leaders in women's soccer history in the United States, died late Monday at age 68.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said DiCicco was "one of the most influential coaches in U.S. Soccer history." His teams posted a 103-8-8 record from 1994 to 1999, making him the winningest coach in U.S. Soccer history and the only coach to win more than 100 games.
DiCicco led the U.S. women to their first Olympic gold medal at the 1996 games in Atlanta. That victory changed the American public's view of women's soccer, and of women's sports in general, and set the stage for the Women's World Cup hosted in the U.S. in 1999.
The American women advanced through a series of high-pressure matches to wind up in the World Cup final in front of more than 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in southern California — the largest crowd ever to watch a women's sporting event.
The U.S. team defeated China in a penalty kick shootout that the U.S. Soccer Federation said "altered the course of women's soccer in America and the world."
'One of the true legends'
"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," federation CEO Dan Flynn said. "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."
DiCicco was a star soccer player in his own right at the university level, for the U.S. national team and as a professional in the American Soccer League. He also played a leading role when women's professional soccer play began in the U.S. in 2001, and he was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012.
He leaves a wife and four sons. The family did not release a cause of death.