NEW YORK: Phil Woosnam, probably even more important than Pele in the promotion of association football in the United States, has died aged 80 writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Woosnam, former Wales, West Ham and Aston Villa inside forward, made his presence felt as longtime commissioner of the original North American Soccer League.
The NASL did not last but the enduring nature of Woosnam’s pioneering legacy can be seen every time the US national team line up in the World Cup finals and every time a game kicks off in Major League Soccer.
Phillip Abraham Woosnam was born on December 22, 1932, in Caersws, mid-Wales. He played for Wales at youth and amateur level – while reading physics at Bangor University – and scored three goals in 17 senior international appearances between 1959 and 1963.
Woosnam emigrated to the United States in 1966 to play for Atlanta Chiefs in the new National Professional Soccer League. Later be became coach of both Chiefs and later the US national team.
A year later he was appointed Commissioner of the new NASL, a role he held until 1983 and in which he played a crucial role in the development of the modern US professional soccer scene. For example it was Woosnam who persuaded Warner Communications to invest in a new club: New York Cosmos.
The impending collapse of the NASL, stemming from the unrealistic expectations of club owners, led to Woosnam’s removed in 1983. But he remained in the game as managing director of the marketing arm of US Soccer and was instrumental in helping bring the 1994 World Cup to the US.
Woosnam was inducted into the US National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1997.