Tony DiCicco, Women’s Soccer Pioneer, Dies at 68

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By TOM SLATER

Tony DiCicco died Monday night in his Connecticut home, family by his side, after a long battle with cancer. He was 68.

The tributes for the late poured in social media, calling DiCicco a legend, pioneer, hall of fame coach, father, husband.

All correct and then some.

His son Anthony made the announcement on Tuesday:

DiCicco will forever be linked with the United States women’s national team and the 1999 World Cup title. The three-week tournament put the spotlight on the women’s game like never before. Packed stadiums in the United States, exciting games and the sports bra seen around the world put the global spotlight on women and women’s sports.

It was the World Cup of Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, Brianna Scurry and, of course, Brandi Chastain.

But DiCicco’s contributions shouldn’t be overlooked, although they often are. He had nothing to gain and the World Cup to lose. The Americans were expected to win as they buzzed through the qualifying rounds with ease.

A close call against Germany — a 3-2 comeback victory  — and July 4 win over Brazil put the United States in the final against China.

The result was a classic battle if not a game full of finesse and goals. After a scoreless regulation and overtime, the game went to penalty kicks. Scurry stopped one while blurring the line of fair play by moving way before the shot and Chastain left-footed her shot in the corner and whipped off  her jersey in celebration.

DiCicco’s job was not to derail the American’s trip to the final. He insisted that the U.S. women personify the game in this country. And for a while, the women owned soccer in the United States.

He resigned, but stayed in the game, after the 1999 World Cup.

DiCicco went on to be the first commissioner of the Women’s United Soccer Association from 2000-3, then coached the Boston Breakers of Women’s Professional Soccer from 2009-11.

In his playing days, DiCicco was an All-American at Springfield College before playing with the American Soccer League’s Connecticut Wildcats and the Rhode Island Oceaneers. In 1973, he toured and played for the national team.