Longtime FIFA, CONCACAF Executive Chuck Blazer Dead at 72

Chuck Blazer, the former FIFA executive whose vision for soccer in the U.S. allowed the sport to rise but whose career ended in disgrace, has died at the age of 72 following a long battle with cancer.

Chuck Blazer is dead at the age of 72.

The Guardian reports that Blazer started in football by coaching his son’s club in New Rochelle and joined boards of local and regional soccer organizations. He was EVP of the U.S. Soccer Federation from 1984 to ’86, then became chair of the national teams committee. In 1988, he and Clive Toye, who, as GM of the New York Cosmos, had brought Pele to the U.S., formed the American Soccer League. In 1991, Blazer created the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the organization’s national-team championship played every two years, and rose within FIFA to become chairman of its marketing and television advisory board.

As ESPN discusses, his legacy is a complicated one. For more than 20 years, Blazer teamed with former CONCACAF President Jack Warner to grow the region’s governing body from a small-time outfit into a soccer-marketing powerhouse that helped grow the game and the confederation.

It was in part through Blazer’s efforts that FIFA chose the U.S. to host the 1994 World Cup. He was named to its powerful executive committee in 1997 and remained there until 2013.

Blazer pleaded guilty in November 2013 to one count each of racketeering conspiracy, wire-fraud conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy, and willful failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts and to six counts of tax evasion.

He forfeited $1.9 million and agreed to forfeit a second amount, but he was never jailed as the investigation continued. He was banned from football for life by FIFA on July 9, 2015.

“His misconduct, for which he accepted full responsibility, should not obscure Chuck’s positive impact on international soccer,” his lawyers said in a statement. “With Chuck’s guidance and leadership, CONCACAF transformed itself from impoverished to profitable.”