U.S. coach Tony DiCicco dies at 68; won 1999 Women's World Cup

Former United States women's national team coach Tony DiCicco died on Monday night, his family said. He was 68.

DiCicco led the U.S. from 1994 to 1999 and led the Americans to their second World Cup triumph at the 1999 World Cup. The U.S. beat China in the final after a penalty shootout at the Rose Bowl.

The U.S. also won the Olympic gold medal under DiCicco's leadership in Atlanta in 1996, the first year women's soccer was played at the Games.

"Last night, at his home, surrounded by his family, Tony DiCicco bestowed love broadly as he peaceful[ly] transformed from a mortal body to an eternal idea," the DiCicco family said in a statement.

"While 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."

As U.S. coach, DiCicco won nearly 90 percent of his matches, with 103 victories to eight draws and eight defeats. He also coached the U.S. team to the 2008 Under-20 Women's World Cup title.

ESPN's Julie Foudy said of her former coach: "Tony was one of the finest to grace this planet. His spirit will indeed live in us all Anthony. I smile thru the tears. His impact, immense."

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati called DiCicco "one of the most influential coaches in U.S. Soccer history."

"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," Gulati said. "U.S. Soccer will forever be thankful to Tony for his vast contributions to the game."

Amanda Duffy, the National Women's Soccer League managing director of operations, lauded DiCicco as a soccer pioneer.

"Tony will be remembered for his immense passion, his dedication to the game and his life pursuit to inspire players and people," she said. "A truly influential figure, no one will forget the impact he has had on so many people's lives and his role in the tremendous growth of women's soccer in the U.S."

He started with U.S. Soccer as a goalkeeper coach as the team won the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991 before taking the head job and leading the Americans to a third-place finish at the 1995 World Cup in Sweden.

DiCicco went on to be the first commissioner of the Women's United Soccer Association from 2000 to 2003, then coached the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer from 2009 to 2011.

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

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