Phil Woosnam

The commissioner of the  North American Soccer League for nearly its entire existence, heading that league from 1969 to 1983.

Woosnam presided over the league’s glory years, when the New York Cosmos were drawing 70,000-plus crowds. However, his greatest achievement with the NASL may have been in less prosperous times, as he shepherded the league through its crisis season of 1969. That year, league membership dropped from 17 teams to five, and average attendance fell to about half of what it had been in 1968.

Woosnam, who had been a first-division player in England for West Ham United and Aston Villa, and played 17 full internationals for Wales, started in the NASL as coach and general manager of the Atlanta Chiefs in 1968. In that year, he also served as coach of the U.S. national team in a successful series of World Cup qualifying games against Canada and Bermuda.

Between the 1968 and 1969 seasons, Woosnam was named director of the NASL, and began the work that enabled the league to survive its crisis year. His title was changed to commissioner in 1971. As the leading professional soccer executive in the country, he also exerted considerable influence in the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Inducted in 1997.