On 13 December 2006, American soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt passed away in Dallas. He was 74 years old.
Heir to an oil fortune, Hunt was an enthusiastic supporter of both soccer and American football. In 1959, after being turned down for a National Football League franchise, he helped found the rival American Football League and formed his own team, the Dallas Texans. He later moved the team to Kansas City, renaming them as the Chiefs, and they eventually joined the NFL when the two leagues merged in 1970.
His interest in soccer was sparked by a 1962 trip to Ireland, where he took in a Shamrock Rovers match. Five years later, he helped establish the North American Soccer League and founded the Dallas Tornado, who went on to win the league title in 1971.
After the demise of the NASL, Hunt continued to promote the sport in the US. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Major League Soccer, which debuted in 1996 with two Hunt-owned teams, the Columbus Crew and the Kansas City Wizards. In 2003, he acquired a third team, FC Dallas and owned all three until his death.
He received several honours and awards over the course of his life, including induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992 and the placement of his statue outside the Columbus Crew Stadium. In 1999, the U.S. Soccer Federation renamed the U.S. Open Cup in his honour. Now known as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, it is the country’s longest-running soccer competition.