Former Los Angeles Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid, the winningest coach in MLS history who was hospitalized at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center three weeks ago in need of a heart transplant, died Tuesday at the age of 65.
Schmid had a history of heart problems, and members of the Galaxy expressed concern about his health last season. The coach resigned from leading the Galaxy in September.
In 2009, Schmid was hospitalized with pneumonia during his first season with the Seattle Sounders, then missed a match for undisclosed reasons in 2015. He left Seattle in 2016 to return for his second stint with the Galaxy, who provided his first MLS coaching start from 1999-2004. He also coached the Columbus Crew from 2006-08.
Schmid’s death was confirmed by members of his family in a statement issued Wednesday through the Sounders, one of three MLS teams Schmid coached over 18 seasons.
“On Tuesday, December 25, Sigi Schmid passed away at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles due to a personal health matter. 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 statement read. “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.”
A native of Germany who moved with his family to California at the age of 4, Schmid collected 266 regular-season and postseason victories in MLS. He coached the Galaxy to their first MLS Cup title in 2002 and led the Crew to a league championship in 2008.
His other career highlights included five U.S. Open Cups, the CONCACAF title in 2000 — the only earned by the Galaxy thus far — and three Supporters Shields, awarded to the team with the best regular-season record in MLS.
In the college ranks, Schmid won three NCAA championships in 19 years at UCLA, his alma mater, leading his teams there to a 322-63-33 record and 16 consecutive postseason appearances. He was inducted into UCLA’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2015.
“Sigi was passionate for the game, a tireless worker, and was loved by his players,” former coaching rival Bruce Arena said Wednesday. “His accomplishments at every level were truly remarkable and he will be missed.”
Added former U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a longtime friend whose family also lived near Schmid’s in southern Germany: “He was an amazing family person and his love for soccer was endless. He was like an encyclopedia. He formed soccer in this country like no one else over the last 30 years. ... His brain was always going 200 mph.
“He was such a giver. Sigi leaves us far too early. People like him are very rare in this world: straightforward, giver, passionate, endlessly dedicated to his mission and to his family.”
Schmid is survived by his wife Valerie, sons Kurt, Kyle and Eric, daughter Lacey Nicholl and several grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been released. In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the family is asking for a memorial gift of support to be made to the men’s soccer program at UCLA.
—Field Level Media