Soccer Man: Fact & Fiction

I couldn’t sleep last night. Maybe I should say I woke up a little too early actually. What’s a 24-year-old to do? Fire up twitter.

We are getting into Cup season and to me that’s the U.S. Amateur Cup, the Werner Fricker Open, and the Gerhard Mengel Over-30. So, my soccer twitter usage has been ramping up. I’ve been putting those three cups into the twitter search bar lately to see what kind of talk there is out there if any. Just so happens that searches with “Werner Fricker” included bring up some interesting if downright fictional results. Except for the good mentions of his cup, most of the other references are wrong.

Some scarf-ies try desperately with only one piece of evidence to paint him as this pro/rel hero that was banished because some other establishment didn’t want that system. The evidence is a single clipping titled “THE FUTURE OF PRO SOCCER.” I’ll add that the passage comes with no note of a year, a publication, and not a single mention of the name Werner Fricker. Still they link it to him. It may be genuine, but the fact is that the promotion and relegation in the pro levels was just a portion of the things he and US Soccer were working on at the time. Werner Fricker, a pro/rel fanatic that was ousted because he pledged for that system?

You couldn’t be more wrong.

Interested to know what he really did as the President?

In 1972, Fricker was elected president of the Eastern Pennsylvania Soccer Association and served until 1974 when he was elected Vice President of the United States Soccer Federation. He held that role until 1984 when he was elected as the USSF President. From 1984 to 1990, he played a great role in improving the U.S. Soccer Federation’s financial situation, but is best known for the successful World Cup bid. It also was on Fricker’s watch, in 1989, that the United States qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. He presided over the launch of the women’s national team in 1985 and the formation of the boys U-17 program. In 1981, as vice-president, he had master-minded the start of the U-20 program.

Read more of this in Werner Fricker: A Biography

Others invoke his name as the last true soccer man to hold the big job. These people never met him or truly understand what he stood for. They also don’t know who was on his team. They try to make it seem like he’d be opposed Sunil Gulati and the current administration. Who was the first man to receive the Werner Fricker Builder Award?  Do they know what Sunil said when he was awarded U.S. Soccer’s highest honor?

To receive the Werner Fricker Builder Award is truly a prestigious honor, it is a distinction that helps personify a man whose dedication to the growth of soccer in the United States was unrivaled. (

Werner Fricker, an anti US Soccer, and anti Sunil Gulati, past President of the USSF?

You couldn’t be more wrong.

Then in a string of banter mostly about the MLS the next two anecdotes come from. One side, against MLS, mentions Werner Fricker as someone who had a plan for “grassroots.” FYI, I think he would have just called it Soccer. To him it wasn’t grassroots against national and professional. It was soccer. That wasn’t a term that was used at the time. Soccer was soccer whether it was the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania or the old NASL. Werner Fricker wasn’t a grassroots champion. He was a soccer man that worked his way up to the highest level. He did so because he was on a team that wore USA over the chest and when that experience was over he wanted to make it better, he wanted to make it all better at every level.

Then this one bothered me the most.

In the same conversation the pro MLS side actually wrote that soccer “barely existed” before 1994. USSF was founded in 1913 and became a full member of FIFA in 1914. Aside from that there are records of national teams back to the 1880s. 1914 was also the founding year of the US Open Cup, today the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. In 1923 the US Amateur Cup was founded. Let’s not forget, that the US placed 3rd in the 1930 World Cup. Or the hero Walt Bahr’s famous 1950 win over England. Let’s also use Werner Fricker as an example since he’s the topic of conversation. He started with the German Hungarians in 1954. That club started its first team in 1922. They and other clubs founded the USLPA in 1959. They won the US Amateur Cup in 1965. Soccer barely existed until the 1994 World Cup?

You couldn’t be more wrong.

When I was in grade school, other kids would say things like “Michael’s Grandfather, he brought soccer to America.” That conjured images of grandpop riding on the mayflower, Telstar in hand landing at Plymouth rock.

What they meant was in bringing the World Cup to the United States he put US Soccer on the map more so than it was before. Some true soccer folks know that more of what he did besides the successful bid brought soccer to a higher place. He wasn’t perfect, and he lost the election for a lot of different reasons. The thing is, all of that doesn’t matter. What matters is what he did do and not what the social media world says he did.


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