Sigi Schmid was a coaching legend in Major League Soccer. (Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis
FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Sigi Schmid, the winningest coach in Major League Soccer history who directed two teams to league championship, passed away Tuesday. He was 65.

Schmid was one of the most respected coaches in American soccer, whether it was at the college, professional and international level.

He died at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Tuesday while awaiting a heart transplant.

“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,” Schmid’s family said in a statement. “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, and for that reason, it was important to us that we share the news of his passing.

“While we mourn his loss, we appreciate privacy during this challenging time and will not be issuing further statements. In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the family asks to please consider a memorial gift to support the men’s soccer program at UCLA, Sigi’s alma mater. Donations in memory of Sigi may be directed to the attention of Emily Lerner of UCLA Athletics at 310-206-3302 or elerner@athletics.ucla.edu.”

Schmid guided the LA Galaxy (2002) and Columbus Crew SC (2008) to MLS Cup glory and while Seattle Sounders FC did not win a league championship during his tenure, the team captured four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups and three Supporters Shields (2002, 2008 and 2014). After the Sounders fired Schmid midway through the 2016 season, Seattle went on to win its only MLS Cup.

His MLS teams won 240 regular-season games and another 26 in the playoffs.

Born in West Germany in 1953, Schmid moved to Southern California Schmid coached UCLA for 19 seasons and three NCAA Division I championships. He also guided the U.S. Under-20 team among his many coaching endeavors.

He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2015 as one of U.S. Soccer’s and American soccer’s best coaches.

“Major League Soccer is devastated by the news of the passing of Sigi Schmid,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. Sigi will go down as one of the leading figures in the history of our league. From Los Angeles to Columbus and Seattle, Sigi won more games than any coach in MLS history and led his clubs to multiple championships, including two MLS Cups and five Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups. Sigi’s passion for soccer was unrivaled, and he was loved and admired by everyone in MLS. We deeply mourn his passing and send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Valerie, their children, and all of his loved ones.”

Schmid had been hospitalized and waiting for a heart transplant for three weeks.

“Today’s news comes as a shock and a devastating blow to our entire community across MLS and U.S. Soccer,” Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said. “Sigi was someone I respected immensely, not only for his success as a coach and dedication to his craft, but more importantly as a man and someone that truly left a positive mark on the people he encountered every day. He will be missed greatly by a lot of people, and on behalf of the soccer community here in Seattle, I can say that we would not be where we are now without him.”

Schmid is survived by his wife Valerie and four children, Erik, Lacey, Kurt, and Kyle.