U.S. Soccer Foundation
Hunt is honored at annual banquet.
To many, the high point of the night was Lamar Hunt being given a lifetime achievement award. Prince Albert II of Monaco, who has long standing ties to American soccer, was another honored guest.
"I'm really honored to receive this lifetime achievement award." Hunt said. "A lifetime is a long time and I think it's most fitting to focus on the modern era of soccer, especially the last decade. MLS is a long, long way from total maturity and we haven't reached the success that all involved want to see. But it will come.
"I wish continued success to the Foundation. You're doing an important job to help what is called 'the beautiful game'. You're helping it to expand at every level. I will always remember this very special night in Washington, D.C."
Hunt was also one of the founders of Major League Soccer in 1996 and, in 1999, the Hunt family built Columbus (Ohio) Crew Stadium, the first major-league soccer-specific stadium in the U.S.
He was introduced by MLS commissioner Don Garber. Without Hunt, "there would not have been an NASL, there would not be a MLS and no soccer-specific stadiums," Garber said. "His love of the game has allowed millions to participate and to enjoy the game."
"Those were wonderful moments," Tagliabue said. "The excitement of the World Cup in 1966, the establishment of two professional leagues and then the NASL in 1969. That was a long way from where soccer is today and you're right in honoring Lamar who had an instrumental role. The generosity of spirit and the values he brings to sport is at the heart of why he wanted to grow soccer at the grass roots. It's fitting it's the U.S. Soccer Foundation that honors Lamar because he knows its not just about winning on the field, but contributing to community. Being here tonight is one of the highlights of my professional life."
Another highlight of the evening was the announcement of the Top 10 soccer achievements of the past decade, decided by a fan poll conducted by the Foundation. The results are listed below.
In addition, Foundation president John Koskinen announced the establishment of a fund planned to eventually spend millions of dollars to rebuild the soccer infrastructure of the Gulf Coast area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
"This fund will help us rebuild the soccer infrastructure of the Gulf area," Koskinen said. "We are designing a streamlined grant application process so we can provide as much support to rebuild the game as money will allow."
Prince Albert shared with the audience his long love of soccer, especially in the U.S. He played left back for Amherst College and remembered the times he sneaked off to Foxboro Stadium near Boston or the Meadowlands in northern New Jersey to watch big soccer matches.
Albert and a group of his old U.S. soccer friends, several of whom were in attendance, still play together when they meet at various events around the world, he said. The most recent time was, the Prince remembered, at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea.
"It's been great growing up around soccer first in Monaco and then in this country," Albert said. This is a wonderful foundation and how wonderful it is to celebrate what you have done, and I can envision with all of you here, what you can do for soccer in this country. With the success you've already had, you can expect a very bright future."
The U.S. Soccer Foundation was established in 1994 to manage the profit generated by the 1994 FIFA World Cup held in the United States. Over $40 million in grants, financial support and loans have been made to help develop the game at all levels in the U.S. The Foundation has provided more than 350 grants to approximately 310 organizations, focused on developing players, coaches and referees, and building or enhancing fields and soccer complexes, with a special emphasis on economically disadvantaged urban areas.
The top 10 soccer events of the last decade, as found by a U.S. Soccer Foundation fan poll:
1. U.S. men reach the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup.