Tony DiCicco (right) and his assistant coach Lisa Cole when they were with the Boston Breakers. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)

By Michael Lewis Editor

Former U.S. women’s national team coach Tony DiCicco, who directed the side to the 1999 Women’s World Cup championship and the 1996 Olympic gold medal, has passed away.

DiCicco died Monday. He was 68.

“Today we mourn the loss of one of the most influential coaches in U.S. Soccer history,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. “Tony’s passion for the game as a coach, administrator and broadcaster was always evident and his relationships with everyone in the soccer community distinguished him as a compassionate and much-loved man. U.S. Soccer will forever be thankful to Tony for his vast contributions to the game and we extend thoughts and condolences to his family and to the many people who were positively impacted by him during what was a remarkable life.”

DiCicco’s Anthony made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

“Last night, at home, surrounded by family, Tony DiCicco bestowed love broadly as he peaceful transformed from a mortal body to an eternal ideal,” Anthony DiCicco wrote.

“With the health challenges Tony faced were confronted head on and with eyes open, we never could have foreseen the beautiful journey that truly defined the magnificence of this man’s life.

“In honor of Tony’s life, we ask that emotion evoked by his passing be channeled towards the ideas he embodied: integrity, compassion and love. While sorrow is inevitable in his absence, his strength and grace illuminated a path forward without fear. We are grateful.

“We are humbled to experience the sphere of impact Tony had in the world of sport and in the lives of people every day. His life will continue to be celebrated and honored by those who knew and loved him.”

Anthony DiCicco said his family will provide additional details in the near future regarding funeral arrangements and “celebrations.”

After forging a reputation as a goalkeeping coach, Tony DiCicco eventually became coach of the U.S. women’s national team, succeeding Anson Dorrance.

He directed the then defending champions Americans to a third-place finish in the 1995 Women’s World Cup in Sweden, which was considered a disappointing result.

DiCicco then guided the USA to the gold medal in the very first Olympic women’s soccer tournament as it defeated China, 2-1, in the final in Athens, Ga. in August 1996.

Three years later, the USA was on top of the world again, capturing the 1999 Women’s World Cup with a memorable penalty-kick shootout win over then archrival China at the Rose Bowl. In that game, Brandi Chastain converted the winning penalty and celebrated by taking off her jersey, revealing a sports bra at the time. That moment stunned the world and soccer community at the time.

DiCicco hardly rested on his laurels. He later was the first commissioner of the Women’s United Soccer Association, the first professional women’s soccer league in the U.S. He also coached the Boston Breakers and directed the U.S. to the Under-20 Women’s World Cup title in 2008.

DiCicco was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012.

“Tony is one of the true legends of women’s soccer in the United States and the game would not be where it is today without his dedication and visionary work,” said U.S. Soccer Secretary General/CEO Dan Flynn said in a statement. “We’ve lost a great man, but we all know that the impact he had at the beginning of our Women’s National Team program will be felt for generations to come.”

Most recently, he worked as a TV commentator for women’s international matches.

The Wethersfield, Conn., native also played for the Connecticut Wildcats and Rhode Island Oceaneers for five years in the old American Soccer League.

“Tony’s passing is an incredible loss to our game. We have lost a friend. He adored his wife and sons and our thoughts are with them. He’s touched so many people’s lives,” National Soccer Coaches Association of America CEO Lynn Berling-Manuel said in a statement. “As Director of the NSCAA Goalkeeper Academy, he taught hundreds of coaches who will always be in his debt. And he will be revered by players across the spectrum — from nine-year-olds who had their first soccer camp experience with him to national team stars who played in World Cups for him. There will not soon be another like him.”

DiCicco is survived by Diane and four sons: Anthony, Andrew, Alex, and Nicholas.