Tony DiCicco, perhaps the most successful coach of the United States women’s national soccer team, died on Tuesday at the age of 68, leaving behind a legacy of helping shape one of the first true superpowers of the women’s game. The Sporting News published a statement from the DiCicco family, which first appeared on the Twitter account of DiCicco’s son Anthony.
“We are humbled to experience the sphere of impact Tony had in the world of sport and in the lives of people every day,” the statement read. “His life will continue to be celebrated and honored by those who knew and loved him.”
The family did not release any other details about DiCicco’s death, preferring to focus on the coach’s life. Tony DiCicco’s distinguished career with the women’s national team began in 1991, when he was named the team’s goalkeeper coach. That team would become the first winner of the Women’s World Cup, earning DiCicco the chance to take over when the team’s first coach, Anson Dorrance, returned to focusing on his North Carolina soccer team on a full-time basis.
What followed was perhaps the greatest run for an American sports team outside of basketball. Under DiCicco’s leadership, the USWNT compiled a record of 103-8-8, with its greatest moment coming in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, which was hosted in the United States for the first time. The Americans won all six matches in the tournament, outscoring their foes by a combined 18-3 and winning the world championship in a dramatic penalty shootout against China. The final match was played before 90,000 spectators in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., helping pique interest in women’s soccer among American families.
Other career highlights for Tony DiCicco included a third-place finish at the 1995 World Cup, when the Americans fell in the semifinals to Norway, and claiming the first-ever women’s soccer gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics by beating China by a 2-1 score in the final.
DiCicco stepped aside following the 1999 Women’s World Cup, but returned to the sidelines for the women’s under-20 team in 2008, which he guided to the U-20 World Cup title. He stepped away from the national team for good following that tournament and subsequently became the coach of the Boston Breakers of Women’s Professional Soccer.
Tony DiCicco was enshrined in the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012, and his mark of 103 victories is an all-time high for USWNT coaches. He ended his career with a winning percentage of .899, good for second behind Greg Ryan’s .900 while coaching 64 games more than Ryan did in his tenure.
Readers, do you remember watching the 1999 Women’s World Cup? How do you remember DiCicco’s teams? Sound off in the comments and like and share this story!
By Dan Angell