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Bob Hermann, soccer boss who helped found NASL, dies at 97

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LADUE, Mo. — Bob Hermann, the soccer executive who launched the Hermann Trophy given annually to the top college soccer players in the United States, has died at age 97.

His family said he died Monday at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue.

A key figure in the rise of the professional sport in the U.S. in the 1960s, Hermann was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2001.

Robert Ringen Hermann was born on Jan. 3, 1923. He went to St. Louis Country Day School and in 1944 graduated from Princeton, where he was on the crew. Commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy, he served on the aircraft carrier USS Savo Island in the Pacific theater and rose to lieutenant.

He founded the plastic containers firm Hermann Cos. in 1956 and in 1967 helped create the National Professional Soccer League, a 10-team circuit in the U.S. and Toronto. Hermann launched the league with the help of former Philadelphia Phillies owner William D. Cox, who had been banned from baseball for life in 1943 for betting on his own team.

Hermann co-owned the St. Louis Stars with Bill Bidwill of the NFL’s Cardinals. After the 1967 season, the NPSL merged with the United Soccer Association and formed the North American Soccer League. Led by the Cosmos and Pele, NASL raised the presence of the soccer in the U.S. until it folded after the 1984 season.

Hermann’s Stars moved after the 1977 season to Anaheim and became the California Surf. The club was taken over in 1980 by a group headed by Henry Segerstrom, then folded after the 1981 season.

In 1967, Hermann founded the Hermann Trophy, presented to the top men’s college soccer player by the Missouri Athletic Club. A women’s award, also named after him, began in 1988.

Hermann Stadium, the 6,050-seat home of the soccer team of St. Louis University, was named after him in 1999 following a $5.1 million renovation he helped fund.

In 1981 he founded the Veiled Prophet Fair, a Gateway Arch-area celebration around the time of the Fourth of July now called Fair St. Louis. He also served as chairman of the St. Louis Zoo.

His first marriage, to the late Lilly Busch Hermann, ended in divorce. His second wife, Mary Lee Marshall Hermann, died last August. He is survived by daughter Carlota “Lotsie” Hermann Holton, son Robert R. Hermann Jr.; four stepchildren, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by daughter Christy Busch Hermann.

A memorial service will be planned later.

Miami FC makes surprise move to United Soccer League

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The United Soccer League scored an eyebrow raiser on Wednesday when it announced the addition of Miami FC.

Miami purchased the franchise rights of the disbanded Ottawa Fury, and joins the USL Championship for the 2020 season.

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Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva had been an outspoken proponent of promotion and relegation, reportedly offering a $4 billion TV deal to MLS to become an open system. He’s also one of the men who filed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a bid to force U.S. Soccer to adopt the system.

USL president Jake Edwards has spoken about bringing pro/rel into the league, between the Championship and League One. Adding the club owned by Silva, a powerful voice, begs the idea that there are some big things in the oven.

With the move, Miami FC will have to compete with a Major League Soccer team down the street in Inter Miami. They’ll play in the FIU stadium named after Silva.

Here’s what Miami FC president Paul Dalglish said via a team release:

“The decision to join USL gives us two key things.  First, it gives us a stable platform to further expand our academy program and community work, meaning accessible, inclusive and fun family events that bring all of Miami’s soccer communities together.

“Second, it means we’ll be playing 17 home games at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami, providing a fantastic experience for the army of loyal fans that have stood by us. We can’t wait to get started and begin the campaign to our add to our trophy haul.”

It’s a far cry from its roots in the NASL as a buccaneer of professional soccer, but provides stability for a team which has finished first in its last five campaigns spread across three leagues: the NASL, NPSL, and the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA).

Some see pro/rel as an inevitability given FIFA’s rules and a MLS landscape which is now producing an uneven schedule and a number of markets which seek top-tier teams and have the money and audience to support higher tiers.

And at some point, it must be acknowledged that the USL has a number of markets blocked in their pathway to MLS and could emerge as a righteous competitor or fold into a gigantic tiered system. The addition of Miami in a year Major League Soccer is launching Inter Miami is unlikely to be welcomed by MLS commissioner Don Garber.

Meanwhile, Miami FC’s departure means U.S. soccer landscape will certainly turn an eye toward NISA. The nascent league features Atlanta SC, California United, Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, Los Angeles Force, Michigan Stars, Oakland Roots, San Diego 1904 FC, Stumptown Athletic, the New York Cosmos, and unnamed teams in Connecticut and Providence.

NISA announced that U.S. Soccer’s Board of Directors formally approved Detroit City, Chattanooga, Oakland and Michigan on Wednesday. Detroit and Chattanooga are the two highest-profile grass roots clubs outside the USL and MLS, and widely viewed as bellwethers for independent clubs.

World record-holding manager Gutendorf dies at 93

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The world record holder for most teams managed has died at the age of 93.

Rudi Gutendorf, who managed in the United States with the NASL’s St. Louis Stars (1968), last managed in 2003 when he led the Samoa national team.

[ MORE: Maguire shining for Man Utd ]

Those are two of 55 teams he led onto the pitch, 22 of which were national teams. He led teams from CONCACAF (Trinidad and Tobago), CAF (Ghana), CONMEBOL (Chile), OFC (Fiji), and AFC (Australia).

The German-born Gutendorf did a lot of his club work in Europe, leading clubs as big as Hamburg, Schalke, Real Valladolid, and Hertha Berlin.

Gutendorf managed Rwanda in the wake of the country’s dark civil war. From DW.com:

“Such hate, you cannot believe. I was able to unite these two tribes to play football, and good football,” he said in a 2013 interview of the mixed Rwandan team of Hutu and Tutsi players.

What a fascinating career Gutendorf had, and the stories he’s told.

American billionaire Commisso buys Fiorentina

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Rocco Commisso is the new owner of Fiorentina in Italy. 

The American billionaire, who is CEO of Mediacom, was born in Italy but moved to the U.S. at the age of 12 and has confirmed the news to Tariq Panja of the New York Times on Thursday.

It is believed Commisso has bought Fiorentina for somewhere between $150-200 million. Fiorentina confirmed the news as Commisso is the fifth foreign owner of a Serie A club.

He previously failed in a bid to buy AC Milan with his love for soccer is clear as he is also the owner of the New York Cosmos in the U.S., the historic club which has been in the NASL and now the NPSL in recent years.

Speaking to the NY Times about the purchase, Commisso was delighted to be the new owner of the Florence club.

“There’s going to be a tremendous amount of effort, work, passion and money all going to be put in to make sure we have a better season than we had last year,” Commisso said. “Given the fact I was born in Italy, my love for Italian soccer and what soccer has done for me I wanted to eventually buy a quality team here in Italy and I’m very proud, happy and honored to buy Fiorentina, a club that’s got great traditions.”

Fiorentina finished in a disappointing 16th place in Serie A in 2018-19, as that slump came after several seasons of qualifying for European competition.

Previous owner Diego Della Valle took over when Fiorentina were declared bankrupt and despite plenty of progress over the last 17 years, fans have turned on him in recent months.

With the success of American businessman James Pallotta at AS Roma in recent seasons, it will be intriguing to see how much money Commisso will provide in transfer funds and how he can help improve profits off the pitch (due to his vast business experience) to help return Fiorentina to top four challengers in Serie A.

He seems like being cautious to start off with, but the potential for Fiorentina to return to the upper echelons of Italian and European soccer is there.

National Premier Soccer League launches professional competition

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The National Premier Soccer League is the latest entity to help launch a professional league, bringing some of its most successful members together with a couple of NASL teams, and some brand new clubs.

[ MORE: England rocks the USMNT ]

Detroit City FC and Chattanooga FC are joined by Miami FC and the New York Cosmos as the most recognizable names of the bunch.

The league will begin with a Founders Cup at end of the 2019 NPSL season, then moving into a full professional season from Spring 2020 to the Fall.

United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) President John Motta, a member of the U.S. Soccer board of directors, approves of the plan. From the NPSL:

 “We support our members’ growth and expansion of their leagues,” said Motta. “This is another opportunity to develop players, coaches, administrators, and referees at the highest level of adult soccer. This is absolutely critical for player development, as it prepares players onto the next level and also for referee development, as this level of adult soccer is the best training ground for referees in this country.”

The founding members of the league are ASC San Diego, Cal FC, California United Strikers FC, Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, FC Arizona, Miami FC, Miami United FC, Milwaukee Torrent, New York Cosmos, and Oakland Roots.