Sigi Schmid, winningest MLS coach, dies at 65

AP

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Seattle Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid directs his players during first-half action against D.C. United at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., Saturday, April 7, 2012. United and the Sounders tied 0-0. (Chuck Myers/MCT)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sigi Schmid, the winningest coach in MLS history, has died. He was 65.

Schmid’s family said he died Tuesday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Schmid was hospitalized three weeks ago as he awaited a heart transplant.

“Our family is deeply saddened by his passing and is taking this time to grieve the loss of a tremendous husband, father, leader and mentor,” the family said in a statement Wednesday through the Seattle Sounders, one of the three MLS teams Schmid coached.

“We also recognize how much Sigi meant to so many people across the U.S. Soccer landscape and around the world at different levels of the game. That community meant a great deal to him as well. While we mourn his loss, we appreciate privacy during this challenging time.”

Schmid had an MLS-record 266 regular-season and postseason victories in 18 seasons with the LA Galaxy, Columbus Crew and Sounders. He led teams to two MLS titles, the first with the Galaxy in 2002 and the second with the Crew in 2008, and was a two-time MLS Coach of the Year.

“Major League Soccer is devastated by the news of the passing of Sigi Schmid,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Sigi will go down as one of the leading figures in the history of our league. From Los Angeles to Columbus and Seattle, Sigi won more games than any coach in MLS history and led his clubs to multiple championships, including two MLS Cups and five Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups. Sigi’s passion for soccer was unrivaled, and he was loved and admired by everyone in MLS. We deeply mourn his passing and send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Valerie, their children, and all of his loved ones.”

A National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee, Schmid stepped down as coach of the Galaxy in September with six games left in the regular season.

“Sigi was a pillar of the Southern California and United States soccer community,” the Galaxy said in a statement. “He was a pioneer and his influence on the sport of soccer in the United States will long be felt. Sigi was a man of character, a good father, husband, friend and a passionate coach who respected everyone. He will always be a part of our family. We mourn his loss and offer our deepest sympathies to his family during this difficult time.”

Schmid coached UCLA for 19 seasons before moving on to MLS, leading the Bruins to three NCAA titles. Born in West Germany, Schmid moved to Southern California at age 4.

“Sigi was someone I respected immensely, not only for his success as a coach and dedication to his craft, but more importantly as a man and someone that truly left a positive mark on the people he encountered every day,” Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said in a statement. “He will be missed greatly by a lot of people, and on behalf of the soccer community here in Seattle, I can say that we would not be where we are now without him.”

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