By William Gordon

To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Walt Chyzowych’s sudden passing in September 1994, United Soccer Coaches recalls his vital role in forming our sport and propelling the quality of soccer in the United States during our modernizing era. Part 1, which surveys Walt’s career, appeared online in September 2019. Parts 2 and 3 appear here for the first time.


Walt’s service began in earnest when Dettmar Cramer identified him as the person to lead the professionalization of American soccer coaching. By educating, cultivating and endorsing managers through his work as Director of Coaching for US Soccer, Director of US Soccer’s Coaching Schools and as a popular United Soccer Coaches clinician, Walt helped elevate American soccer to a position we had not previously known in world soccer’s modern professional era.

During his tenure, Chyzowych championed Anson Dorrance’s selection as USWNT head coach in 1986; in 1989, the USA won Bronze at the inaugural FIFA Futsal World Cup, finished fourth at the FIFA Men’s U-20 World Cup; also in ‘89, after Walt identified Bob Gansler as the person to correct the USMNT’s qualifying course, we won our place in Italia ’90, the USA’s first FIFA World Cup in 40 years; and then US took Silver in the 1992 Futsal World Cup.[1]

Below, we survey Walt’s life in American soccer, and future articles in this three-part series will dive deeper into formative experiences of the person “whose contribution [to American soccer],” as Bob Gansler notes, “has been of such consequence, yet so diverse and substantial, that the total quantification is elusive.”

Born in Sambir Village, Ukraine in 1937, Chyzowych and his family knew the tragedies of World War II in a land and society contested between Soviet Communists and German National Socialists. Helen Chyzowych, with sons Ihor, Gene, and Walter Jr. braved a Displaced Persons Camp in occupied Germany before reuniting her family in Austria with her husband, Walter Sr. Continuing their journey to the United States from there, they entered America in Boston and were carried along the “Ukrainian network”, replanting their family’s roots in Philadelphia in 1949.

Walt soon joined the Ukrainian Nationals Juniors, the youth side of Philadelphia’s Ukrainian sport and social club, and at age 12 began his American soccer career playing up with boys as old as 18. Following high school, he scored 25 collegiate goals in 1959, setting a still-standing single season scoring record and earning First Team All-American honors at Temple University, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1961.

After being promoted to the Ukrainian Nationals full team in 1958, Walt’s professional career included the major leagues of the time – the American Soccer League, German American League, and NPSL – and he became known as the “Czar of Goals” playing for the Ukrainian Nationals, New York Ukrainians, Toronto City, Newark Ukrainian Sitch, and Philadelphia Spartans. Walt won the 1963 US Open Cup with the Ukrainian Nationals, and led the ASL in scoring in 1963-64 and ’65-66.

In 1961, Walt began the first of two coaching stints totaling 13 seasons at Philadelphia Textile College, leading the school to a 122-37-14 record and three NCAA Quarterfinal appearances. In 1966, with brother Eugene, friend Lenny Lucenko, and Pratt University Head Coach Wayne Sunderland, Walt began the All-American Soccer Camp and School, providing a rare immersive soccer experience for players and coaches alike. Attracting hundreds of players and coaches to sites in New York, All-American heralded both the rapid growth and the qualitative improvement of US soccer camps.

After the World Cup in 1970, Walt’s coaching destiny manifest itself when Dettmar Cramer conducted the first three United States Soccer Football Association Coaching Schools.[2] Presented in Providence, Rhode Island at the Moses Brown School, these one-week courses marked the beginning of professional coaching education in the United States. Walt attended the second week of the course, and his encounter with Cramer became an inflection point in modern American soccer. Nicknamed the “Football Professor”, Cramer revolutionized Japan’s coaching and quality in the 1960s and served as assistant to West German manager Helmut Schoen at England ‘66. Recognizing Walt’s playing skills, pedagogical abilities, and magnetic charisma, he invited Chyzowych to assist his establishment of the USSFA’s Coaching Schools.

For younger readers who grew up with youth soccer in the US, Walt likely taught one or more of your coaches. He worked alongside Cramer through 1974, and when Franz Beckenbauer coaxed Dettmar back to Germany as Bayern Munich manager early in 1975, Chyzowych became USSF Director of Coaching. For the next 15 years, he evolved and conducted the nationwide coaching courses that educated and trained the first generations of American coaches.

Because most Americans in the 70s and 80s other than soccer professionals grew up before US youth soccer began, and because we then had little access to professional and international soccer on TV or in print, the coaching schools’ importance in establishing a platform for improving US quality of play can hardly be overstated. Held each summer and winter, they attracted legions of candidates, including NASL coaches and players, providing the USA’s young soccer community with its first exposure to world class coaching methods and instruction. Cramer’s expertise and influence was pivotal, and Walt built on this by expanding his staff’s knowledge and instruction of global tactics and training through his Coaching School Staff Seminars. Held prior to the winter coaching schools, these seminars invited West Germany’s Helmut Schoen, Poland’s Jacek Gmoch, Yugoslavia’s Ivan Toplak, Heerenveen’s Hans Ooft, or Red Star Belgrade’s Svetislav Glišovi? to share their innovative international and club coaching approaches and to continue the USSF staff’s education.

Walt’s teaching, instruction, and mentorship reached an estimated 20,000 coaches, including most of the 650 “A” license recipients from 1971-1990, and throughout he maintained close relations with United Soccer Coaches, which preceded his time with the federation. In 1969, he led the Convention panel discussion, “Adjusting Offense to Defense & Vice Versa”, and thereafter appeared regularly as clinician, panel member and presenter at the Annual Convention. There were also many NSCAA-sponsored weekend clinics, such as the 1974 Clinic hosted by Tim Schum at SUNY Binghamton, where Walt, Gordon Bradley, Joe Machnik, and Graham Ramsey brought coaching education to growing soccer communities. And when the rigorous playing requirement necessary for advanced USSF coaching badges began excluding too many who could grow and nourish American soccer, two faithful instructors on Walt’s USSF staff, Dr. Tom Fleck and Jim Lennox, wrote the first curriculum for the NSCAA’s coaching courses.

Walt also managed the National Team from 1976-1981, coaching the World Cup, Olympic, Pan American and National Youth Teams. It’s notable that in 1970, statistically zero children played soccer in the US and that the USSF budget and staff reflected its operation as a volunteer organization until 1990, yet with Walt’s leadership we qualified for the 1979 Pan American Games, 1980 Olympic Games and our Youth National Team qualified for the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship.

Wake Forest University chose Walt to lead their men’s program in 1986, and by 1989 they rose from bottom of the table to ACC Champion, finishing that season ranked No. 4 nationally. Two months after USA ’94, Walt’s heart attacked him while playing tennis, and he passed away after just 57 years. The National Soccer Hall of Fame, along with United Soccer Coaches, Temple University, Philadelphia Textile, and the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame all include him in their rolls, and today the “Walt Chyzowych Wall of Fame” stands behind the north goal at W. Dennie Spry Stadium, Wake Forest’s soccer stadium.


It was never discussed.

The war years, the first escape across shifting borders, ahead of the Soviet advance, their return to Sambir in 1941. The resistance years, the second escape from the Soviet threat, overland through Poland and Czechoslovakia, west across Austria then north into Germany. Mostly you didn’t talk about it.

We’re accustomed to stories about the Second World War beginning from a perspective in the USA. Other Americans remember life amidst fighting and death, with war surrounding them. Imagine Helen Chyzowych with her husband Walter, age 34, in September 1939, their lives attuned to violent movements of German and Soviet armies, their actions monitored by sometimes known, sometimes disguised agents serving one or another of the German, Russian, and Ukrainian intelligence operations.

Leaders in the Ukrainian Catholic Church formed a prominent line in Helen’s family, meaning they held sufficient social position and means for the theological education this responsibility required. With their wedding, the new Chyzowychs inherited roughly 75 acres near Sambir where the couple made their home and began their family.

In the early fall of 1939, sons Ihor (age 6), Eugene (4), and Walter Jr (2) escaped with Helen and Walter from Sambir, most likely fleeing 40 miles northwest across the San River where the German army controlled the western side of Przemy?l, Poland.

Walter trained in Prague at the Charles University to be a mining engineer, though it’s not clear he practiced engineering before or after his marriage to Helen – he spoke six languages, and family memories recall stories in which he served a public trust, distributing rationed goods to community members, earning a reputation for fairness in delicate dealings and when civic disputes arose.

For perspective – four days after John Brock & Co mailed the NSCAA’s first newsletter on June 4, 1941, the German Army Group South attacked Soviet troops occupying Ukraine – named Operation Barbarossa, this attack involved three Army Groups comprised of some 4.5 million Nazi troops stretched across an 1800-mile front. It continued until two days before Japanese fliers attacked Pearl Harbor. [3]

Sometime afterward, during that fall in 1941, the Chyzowychs led their sons home. The uncertainties of the times, and his involvement with the resistance to Soviet operations, led Walter frequently nearer to Lviv and back in service to the cause and in search of information on which his family’s fate would turn.[4] The night came early in 1944 when the Chyzowychs escaped again. Presumably, intelligence indicating imminent danger launched the odyssey leading them to new lives in the United States.

So it was war that delivered Walter’s charismatic force to help American soccer find new life.


Fragmented family memories leave an incomplete record of the time between their flight from Sambir in 1944 to the family’s landing in Boston in 1949.

German law required citizens to take in refugees, and moving north from Austria, Walter found his sons shelter on a farm 15 miles south of Munich. He and Helen worked in a village nearby so Ihor, as the oldest brother, bore responsibility for his brothers’ daily lives.

And then the war ended.

Following “Victory in Europe” in May 1945, the Allies created camps for Displaced Persons, “DPs”, to organize and care for an estimated 10-12 million wanderers in Germany.[5] A few stories recall their time in the DP camp, where fellow Ukrainians recreated some semblance of settled life. The brothers could scale a high fence to gain entry to the adjacent U.S. military base where pickup soccer games were played. Once when young Walt, then 9 or 10, missed a sitter, Ihor and Gene refused to help him climb back across, leaving him to find his own solution – not in today’s formative sense when we so often encourage problem-solving, but in the punitive sporting sense: Walt cost them the game.

Millions of refugees were repatriated by the fall of ’45. More years passed for 224,000 others who believed returning to their homeland meant brutal or deadly Soviet reprisal. With them, the Chyzowychs awaited news on American congressional debates about agreeable numbers of Europe’s homeless, huddled masses who would be taken in.

When in June 1948, our 80th Congress passed the Displaced Persons Act – granting admission and a path to citizenship for 202,000 persons meeting certain conditions[6] – our government created a pathway for displaced persons and families. So in 1949, the Chyzowychs made a more secure journey from the DP Camp to the Bremerhaven, Germany port for embarkation to Boston. Helen and her family spoke no English, but distant relatives already were anchored in the USA, connecting them within an established Ukrainian network.

Walter Chyzowych Jr was 12 years old, and before his 13th birthday, he debuted for Philadelphia’s Ukrainian Nationals Juniors.


On August 3, 1973, when Walter, then 36, stood in the technical area on Chicago’s Soldier Field before the Men’s National Team kicked off against Poland. With his right hand over his heart as the national anthem played, what thoughts and images came – what emotions swelled in his chest in those moments before he took charge of the USA for the first time?

Yet who had time for all that? His roster came cobbled together late. For most of American soccer history, our national teams gathered a day or two prior to a match, with players selected from a pool sometimes simply because they were available. National team coaches were drafted for one or two or just a few matches, sometimes against their will. Walt’s first match, for instance, was game one of a four game series against Poland (three games), plus Canada played over 10 days in early August at four sites around the country. The USA played 12 matches that year under three different managers, and Walter would not lead the national team again until his full-time appointment in 1976.

That year, USSF accounts held $160,360. With few resources and hardly any money, three employees managed the USSF, and they could hardly plan strategically for the future, much less prepare teams. Adult registration fees provided the most reliable revenue source, with modest youth registration fees only beginning to arrive.

The previous year, in 1975, Walter stepped in as Director of Coaching to professionalize coaching education by building out the coaching schools that Dettmar began. As National Team Coach, he faced a more daunting task. Dating to its beginnings in 1916, the program lacked stability and continuity: interchangeable managers and coaches; player pools and selection based on a regional patronage system; and non-existent team preparation. There was no youth national team program, and a near-complete absence of youth soccer outside St. Louis and the junior teams of a small number of ethnic clubs. When Walt’s time ended in 1991, everything was different.

American soccer’s challenge at that time resists easy imagination – on the whole, when Dettmar taught the first coaching school at Moses Brown in 1970, American children had no clue about soccer, and hardly any had access to the game: youth soccer had not been created or built, you could not see soccer on television, and you could attend an NASL match only if you lived in Rochester, DC, Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City, or Dallas. We say today “if you can see it, you can be it”…as the 70s began, think how few people in the USA – players, coaches, fans – could see a soccer person who they might become.

Soccer was not available in most communities, and most places in the USA lacked knowledge of the game. During the late 50s and 60s, physical educators graduating from teacher-training colleges in the northeast began driving soccer’s rapid expansion in the schools and colleges across the country.[7] Scholastic soccer, though, like our vibrant ethnic leagues, by then had existed for a century, beyond popular attention.

Soccer in the schools and ethnic clubs served vital civic, social, and sporting roles in their communities, yet beyond their tremendous value and vast impact in local subcultures scattered around the USA, neither brought the game to nationwide public attention. Amongst a population of 205 million, American soccer began the 1970s, on the whole, as a startup brand with roughly 0 followers and 0 likes.


Looking back, it’s easy to wonder why it mattered so much to Walter.

So as we consider Walt’s legacy 25 years later, what stands out about the Chyzowych family and about his soccer story?

Is it a dramatic refugee tale? Yes, it’s a family’s inevitable encounter with national socialism and their dramatic triple escape from communism’s cold clutch.

A compelling immigrant’s story? Yes, one that offers a point of departure for sharing the influence that those born in foreign lands had and have on American soccer.

A story about the vitality of ethnic social clubs? Yes, one that opens an important window into American sport and society.

Yet the blurry family history above cannot connect the Chyzowych family’s escape from national socialism and communism with Walter’s contributions to American soccer. The Chyzowych Family offers just one among millions of stories that war holds, and so many suffered with no escape. Neither theirs, nor most wartime experiences of other families, commonly came up – “It was never discussed” as Walter’s wife Olga said simply, for understandble reasons.

If such early memories somehow fueled Walt’s passion to grow and improve soccer across the USA and lead us onto the global stage, it’s a secret well kept from everyone. Perhaps with more information – his own writings, or intimate confession to Olga or family or friends – we could locate a hidden clue, like Charles Foster Kane’s memory of Rosebud in Orson Welles’ phenomenal Citizen Kane, about what drove him on against the odds.

As it is, to connect these things to Walter’s legacy strains imagination, overlooks a simpler truth, and hides a more revealing mystery – his family and his life became entwined with American soccer’s staggering renaissance when it so easily could have been otherwise.

Walter simply wanted American soccer to become excellent, and he believed we could do it.

That’s to say we should recognized the meaning of the Chyzowych Family’s history beyond the particulars of one person’s story and efforts. With his brother Gene, Walter dedicated himself to improving the USA’s most enduring resources — coaching education, player development, and teambuilding. And they did this at a vital moment: as youth soccer began and the NASL created new excitement and exposure. While neither neither youth nor pro soccer in the 70s generated sufficient revenue for the USSF, it seeded enough money to introduce professional coaching education around the USA and provide a focal point for organizing and building the national team programs.

These were necessary platforms, and Walter and Gene – supported by their wives and children – were in the middle of building them all: coaching schools; countless clinics; correspondence, lectures, and books; institutional partnerships; administration; a national system for player identification; national team coaching selection; and, when necessary, the inevitable politics surrounding it all. The Chyzowych impact on American soccer is a family affair.

Also it’s true that Walter’s legacy is unique. Each January, a staggering “who’s who” of our American coaching community – the builders of American soccer coaching, those who most impacted our game at the local, national and international levels – gathers on a Saturday evening because Walter stood out.

When you speak with these builders, you hear them echo what Dettmar said to Ursula Melendi, one of the federation’s three full-time employees and the invaluable manager of the coaching schools. The first coaching school in 1970 consisted of three sessions each lasting one week, after which Dettmar arrived one day in the federation’s Empire State Building office to enter the candidates’ names and assessments. Reviewing the list with Ursula, Dettmar pointed when they came to Walter Chyzowych, bouncing his finger on the typed name. ‘Him,’ he said, ‘he’s the one to lead.’

The USA entered the modern era well after major soccer nations. The builders speak about Walter’s belief that American players can become top world class – that the USA can rise amongst the world’s greatest soccer nations, that we can learn and struggle our way to excellence. To be sure, his skill and teaching impressed, but his charisma attracted people to a hopeful and often thankless task. At that moment when, though coaches would not starve, neither would they get rich from the game, Walter recruited and inspired a diverse group of coaches and educators across the country to believe the USA could learn and master the beautiful game, that American soccer could be excellent, and that they were the ones to make it happen.

“You wanted to be around him,” they say, “and we all wanted to uphold his faith in us.”

Attend Walt’s Memorial, the best-kept secret in American soccer events, and look around the room: see the faces, consider their names.

Consider Saudi Arabia and Holland ’89. Italia ’90 and China ’91. Look at those rosters of players and coaches, then consider their backgrounds and preparation.

Recognize the circumstances: there was no money; only half a generation of youth soccer; few visible heroes and models to imitate.

Think about Walt’s story – the enduring impact of his followers is embedded teh impact soccer coaches had in your life … look past all that Walter was in the middle of … beyond all the national and international accomplishments that catch obvious attention during Walt’s 20 year effort (and continuing on into USA ’94, the ’96 Atlanta Olympics,  and the ’99 World Cup).

This legacy shows how a single life can improve so many others in ways mostly beyond imagination. In ways, as Coach Gansler reminds us, that elude quantification.

The American soccer player, the American coach, and the American fan – Walt’s legacy is you.

And it so easily might never have happened at all.

To learn more, please visit To help preserve and share Walt’s legacy, visit



[1] The FIFA Futsal World Cup was originally named the FIFA Five-A-Side World Championship.

[2] Before rebranding as U.S. Soccer, our national federation was known as United States Football Association (USFA), United States Soccer Football Association (USSFA), and United States Soccer Federation (USSF).

[3] In January 1941, Brock, Muddy Waters, Howard DeNike et al began forming the National Soccer Coaches Association of America to promote the ‘too long neglected’ need for teaching and coaching the game.

[4] Jeffrey Burds, “AGENTURA: Soviet Informants’ Networks & the Ukrainian Underground in Galicia, 1944-1948”, in East European Politics and Societies, Volume 11, No. 1, Winter 1996. Consider: “During the first seventeen months of Soviet reoccupation of West Ukraine (February 1944-December 1946), formerly top secret NKVD [People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs] reports reveal that the Soviets conducted 15,733 military and paramilitary operations against Ukrainian nationalists. The figures of the results of their efforts are staggering: 91,615 Ukrainian nationalist ‘bandits’ were killed; 96,446 were captured, 41,858 surrendered. Associated with the brutal military campaign, 10,139 Ukrainian families (26,093) persons were deported during the first year of Soviet pacification of the region, with tens of thousands more to follow in the next few years.” (p. 97)

And: “In previously top secret NKVD [People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs] data for twenty-four of the first thiry-five months of Soviet reoccupation of West Ukraine (February 1944-December 1946), Ukrainian underground terrorist groups successfully assassinated 11,725 Soviet officers, agents, and collaborators. In the same period, 3,914 Soviet officials or collaborators were injured, and 2,401 were ‘missing,’ presumed kidnapped by OUN-UPA forces.” (p. 109)

[5] “The IRO”, in The American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 49 (1947-1948 / 5708), p. 535. “The term ‘displaced person’ was defined as applying to a person who, as a result of the actions of the Nazi, Fascist, quisling or similar regimes, ‘has been deported from, or has been obliged to leave, his country of nationality or former habitual residence, such as persons who were compelled to undertake forced labor or who were deported for racial, religious or political reasons.’”

[6] “Displaced Persons Act of 1948”, S. 224; Pub.L. 80-774; 62 Stat. 1009. For relevant conditions, see Section 2 (c): if displaces persons qualified for admission into the United States for permanent residence, and if suitable assurances were given that, if admitted into the United States, they (and with any accompanying dependent family) would be suitably employed without displacing some other person and neither they nor accompanying family members would become public charges and will have safe and sanitary housing without displacing some other person from such housing.

[7] This achievement represents one part of United Soccer Coaches inexhaustible contribution to American soccer. These teacher-educators founded the NSCAA/United Soccer Coaches, and they drove the nationwide expansion of the soccer in the schools and colleges.