CHICAGO (Jan. 9, 2014) – USASA President and U.S. Soccer Federation Board of Directors member Richard Groff is the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award.
The highest honor that an individual can receive from the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Werner Fricker Award, is bestowed on an individual who has worked tirelessly in furthering the interest of the sport of soccer without regard to personal recognition or advancement. The award honors those who created or fostered programs that will outlast their own active involvement in the sport and who have established a lasting legacy in the history and structure of soccer in the United States.
"Richard has worked tirelessly for well over 20 years to advance the sport of soccer at every level in the United States," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "His vision, leadership and commitment have contributed significantly to the progress made in popularizing the game from youth to professional levels. This is a well-deserved award for such dedicated service to the game of soccer."
As the President of the US Adult Soccer Association since 2010, Groff has helped modernize the USASA and increase the Association’s role as a leader forwarding the growth and structure of the game in the country. Under Groff’s leadership, the USASA has become fiscally strong, expanded and simplified player registration through an online registration system and developed insurance plans for adult players throughout the country.
“I am incredibly honored and humbled to join the previous outstanding recipients of the Werner Fricker Award,” said Groff. “Werner was my first soccer hero, mentor, and most importantly a friend. I share this honor with all the passionate soccer volunteers that helped to promote the U.S. National Team matches, and expand the opportunities for players at youth, adult, and professional levels.”
Groff began his more than three-decade foray into soccer in the United States as an administrator in 1986 when he was elected Vice President of the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association and then President a year later. In 1989, Groff began a stellar period of promoting U.S. National Team games – the Men’s National Team went from an average crowd of 16,540 in 1990 to 30,829 in 1994 – and was elected Treasurer of U.S. Soccer in 1990. He helped organize pre-World Cup matches throughout 1990 and, along with Gulati, organized the 1992 U.S. Cup, a tournament that ran until 2000 with the exception of FIFA World Cup years in 1994 and 1998.
In 1994, Groff was instrumental in organizing the Women’s Chiquita Cup, which the USA won against China, Germany and Norway, a tournament that proved the WNT was a draw in its own right. Later that year, he became the Commissioner of the American Professional Soccer League and helped to not only keep the league from folding, but transformed it into a viable entity that paved the way for Major League Soccer and USL PRO. Under his stewardship the A-League developed sponsorships and a television broadcast deal, signed new franchises and engineered a merger with United Soccer Leagues that solidified the future of what is now the third tier of professional soccer in the United States.
The award is named for Werner Fricker, who is widely credited for his role in bringing the 1994 FIFA World Cup to the United States. Born in Yugoslavia and raised in Austria, he lived his adult life in Pennsylvania, where he was a star midfielder for the United German Hungarians of Philadelphia soccer club from 1954 to 1969 and was a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic Team. He served as U.S. Soccer President from 1984 to 1990 and was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992.
The President of U.S. Soccer appoints a selection committee to review the nominations and select a winner.
WERNER FRICKER AWARD
2002 Werner Fricker Sr.
2003 Sunil Gulati
2005 Gerhard Mengel
2006 Sal Rapaglia
2007 Francisco Marcos
2008 Bob Gansler
2009 Alan Rothenberg
2010 Bob Contiguglia
2011 Kevin Payne
2012 Hank Steinbrecher
2014 Richard Groff