You would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished coach within the United States soccer-sphere than Sigi Schmid. Schmid began a successful 19-year run as head coach of the UCLA Bruins Men’s Soccer program in 1980. During that time, he led the Bruins to three national titles (1985, 1990, 1997). He was named national coach of the year following the 1997 championship. He accumulated a record of 322-63-33 in the college ranks.
Schmid went on to become Major League Soccer’s all-time winningest coach. Manning the sidelines for LA Galaxy, Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders, he led teams to two MLS Cup championships, five U.S. Open Cup titles and was named MLS Coach of the Year twice. Far too often, a term like “legend” is haphazardly thrown around, but in Schmid’s case, it was well earned. His resume was impeccable. Given his astonishing success, I had always hoped and rooted for Sigi to be granted the USMNT head coaching gig. He was tactically brilliant, detail oriented and highly regarded. My wonderment as to why it never seemed he garnered serious consideration for the position may never cease.
Like many within U.S. Soccer, I was shocked and saddened today by the news of his untimely passing at the ripe young age of 65. Reportedly, he was hospitalized three weeks ago awaiting a heart transplant. My hope and I am sure the hopes of many, was that the lack of news in recent weeks was good news. Regretfully for us all, that was not the case.
I did not have the privilege of personally knowing Coach Schmid, having only met the gentleman for one brief moment. But for me, it was a moment I will never forget. The United Soccer Coaches convention in 2017 took place in Los Angeles. Naturally, a soccer nerd like myself was in full geek out mode the entire weekend. With a myriad of events throughout the 5 days, the schedule was daunting, but a chalk talk with Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid was a given. Attendance for such an occurrence was non-negotiable, everything else in my world was thrown to the wayside.
As an aspiring coach, I had studied Sigi for a decade and a half. I had rooted for him at every stop in his MLS career. How could someone root against such a phenomenal coach and person? Bruce and Sigi have been two pillars within my “Coaching Holy Trinity” (the other being Caleb Porter) for years, so seeing this spectacle on the agenda, I became the proverbial kid in a candy store with his mom’s credit card. Life couldn’t have been better!
I’ll skip all of the minutiae of the talk, other than to mention that Bruce and Sigi both gracefully and astutely answered my question about the U.S.’s chances of hosting the World Cup in the near future. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to shake Sigi’s hand and thanked him for his time. That was it! My encounter was minuscule and Coach Schmid probably forgot about it before he even left the venue. But to me, it was a moment in time I will forever cherish.
It was a mere four months ago that he was on the sidelines guiding the Galaxy, so it is unfathomable to think that his physical being has left us. However, a man as talented, respected and adored as Sigi, will live in all of our spirits for a lifetime. The positive impact he made on so many people will carry itself forward to the next generation of players, coaches and fans. Coach Schmid left a legacy at every stop during his long coaching journey. He elevated players, he inspired fellow coaches, and he enhanced our sport. Simply put, he made the world around him a better place. In the grand scheme of things, I would say that is the lasting impact we could all hope for in life. RIP, Coach Schmid!