U.S. soccer pioneer and long-time coach John Kerr Sr. pass away yesterday at his home in North Carolina. For newer soccer fans this name may mean nothing but for long-time American soccer fans, Kerr was a pioneer who was a mainstay in the American soccer landscape up through the early days of MLS.
Kerr was born in Scotland and began his soccer career with Scottish club Patrick Thistle before moving with his mother to Canada. In 1968, he joined the Detroit Cougars of the NASL and the next year signed with the Washington Darts, who at the time were a second division club. He helped lead his team to the first division before bouncing around American soccer for the next decade with stints with the New York Cosmos (1972, 1973-1975) and the Washington Diplomats (1976-1977). He was a key contributor to the Cosmos’ 1972 championship. Between his stints for the Cosmos, he was acquired by Club America and was one of the early U.S. soccer league stars to be coveted by an international power. He had ten caps with the Canadian national team but never played in a World Cup.
After his playing days were over, he spent many years as a youth and professional coach in the DC metro area. He led the amateur Fairfax (VA) Spartans to the 1986 Amateur Cup and remained on as head coach when the team rebranded to become FC Washington and the Washington Stars in the American Soccer League. Two of his most high-profile pupils in the youth ranks were U.S. forward Bruce Murray and his son John Kerr Jr., who played in England for years. In 1993, he became the head coach of the Richmond Kickers and remained there for two years. Throughout his career he was a passionate supporter of player’s rights and was involved in the creation of the NASL, Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), and MLS player’s unions.
Kerr was named to the Virginia-DC soccer hall of fame in 2005 and is considered a local legend. Even though he was a Canadian from Scotland, his impact on U.S. soccer was immense and long-lasting and his memory should be honored.