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Phil Woosnam, catalyst for soccer’s growth in North America

Under Phil Woosnam, the North American Soccer League grew from five to 24 teams in the United States and Canada.
Under Phil Woosnam, the North American Soccer League grew from five to 24 teams in the United States and Canada.Associated Press/file 1975

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Phil Woosnam, a Welsh professional soccer player who became the commissioner of the North American Soccer League in 1969 and held that post until 1983, helping to increase the sport’s profile in the United States, died Friday in Marietta, Ga. He was 80.

The cause was advanced prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Ruth.

He became the commissioner of the league in 1969, when it had only five teams, and presided over its growth to 24 teams across the United States and Canada in 1980.

“Phil was one of the pioneers of professional soccer in North America,’’ Don Garber, the commissioner of Major League Soccer, said on the league’s website.

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