Lamar Hunt

The Texas oilman who was a crucial part of the financial underpinning for the growth of American professional soccer in the latter part of the 20th century. He owned teams in both the North American Soccer League and Major League Soccer.

Hunt, who was one of three sons of legendary oilman H.L. Hunt, first got involved in pro sports as owner of the Dallas Texans franchise when the American Football League  was formed in 1960.

Hunt was one of a number of wealthy men who help to found the North American Soccer League in 1968, but he did not join most of the others in the scramble for the exit after the NASL was swamped with red ink in its first season. In 1969, the NASL collapsed from 17 teams to just five, but Hunt was one of those who stayed committed to the fledgling venture. He was owner of the Dallas Tornado from 1968 until the team folded in 1981. He remained in soccer activities after the end of the NASL, and was among the initial investors when Major League Soccer began in the mid-1990s. His presence was so important to MLS that he was permitted to purchase two franchises, the Kansas City Wiz, later renamed the Wizards, and the Columbus Crew. In 2003, Hunt also purchased the Dallas Burn franchise, and later sold both the Kansas City and Columbus teams.

Hunt made an additional contribution to American soccer in 1999 when he financed the building of the 22,500-seat Columbus Crew Stadium, which was then the largest stadium ever built in the United States specifically for soccer. That was the start of a trend that saw 10 other MLS teams build their own stadiums within the next 15 years. In honor of Hunt’s various efforts, the U.S. Open Cup was renamed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup by the U.S. Soccer Federation in 1999.

Inducted in 1982.