John Best, the first head coach and an early general manager of the North American Soccer League’s Seattle Sounders, died Sunday in Ireland while visiting family. Best, 74, who was with the Sounders from 1974-76, had a lung infection. He had also battled kidney disease for more than two decades.
Best, a Liverpool, England, native, was a five-time NASL All-Star in Dallas before joining the expansion Sounders in 1974. During his coaching tenure, the Sounders played to near-capacity crowds at Memorial Stadium before moving to the Kingdome. Seattle went 43-26 during Best’s three seasons.
After departing the Sounders, Best became general manager of the Vancouver Whitecaps, helping the ‘Caps win the 1979 NASL championship. He rejoined the Sounders in 1982 when they finished runner-up to the New York Cosmos in the Soccer Bowl. After the Sounders folded in 1983, Best became part of a group that operated the Tacoma Stars of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
Best had three kidney transplants over the past two decades, including one from his wife, Claudia, who survives him.
Sad, sad news. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say John Best was crucial in putting soccer on the map as a spectator sport in Seattle. He had a real sense of presence about him that connected with people here. I’ll never forget walking around my neighborhood listening to that first game on a transistor radio in 1974 as a 14-year-old. It wasn’t just the 5-1 thrashing of Denver that was so exciting…it was hearing that crowd of 12,000 roaring fans at Memorial Stadium through my radio’s little speaker (only 5,000 were expected to show up) that made me believe the Sounders had arrived.
And for a few years, they had.
R.I.P., John Best. The guys routinely playing in front of tens of thousands of people at the Clink are reaping what you and The Lads sowed four decades ago. Many thanks.
Very sad news. John was a big part of Seattle sports history. I’m glad he lived to see the Sounders return to prominence. Thoughts and prayers to his family at this time.
God Bless John Best
Let’s not forget his involvement with the Tacoma Stars, who drew a few NBA/NHL-sized crowds (even north of 20,000) in their heyday. Say what you will about indoor soccer, but the Stars bridged the gap between the demise of the NASL Sounders and the birth of the A-League/USL Sounders.
Sleep well, John.